Last August was an unforgettable month for Anne Dallat, but not in the way she had envisaged. The 66-year-old knew it would bring a landmark - 45 years married to John, one of Northern Ireland's most popular and respected politicians.
But neither of them knew it would also bring a devastating diagnosis of the cancer that would ultimately claim the life of the SDLP MLA at the age of 73.
"When he came out of the surgery last year I asked him what the doctor had said and he told me to wait until we got to the car," Anne recalls.
"But when we got to the car park he was so upset he couldn't even find the car..."
Sitting alongside daughter Helena Dallat O'Driscoll in the 41-year-old's Kilrea home, Anne said her husband, the father of the couple's three children, had remained positive right until the end despite the trauma of his terminal illness.
He always remained so brave, so positive.
Two months before his death on May 5 Mr Dallat was still actively involved in constituency work, a staple of his career in public service that spanned over 40 years.
"He only took to his bed a week-and-a-half before his death," says Anne.
"That was the only time he wasn't fit enough to get up. He wanted to get up, but, physically, his body let him down.
"He felt so weak and said the weakness was worse than any pain."
Just before he died John was finally able to put on his wedding ring, and a black stone ring Anne gave him after they got engaged.
They hadn't fitted his fingers for two decades.
"He was delighted at being able to wear them again," says Anne, who had previously worked as her husband's personal assistant.
The mother-of-three's eyes welled up with tears as she told how John knew his life was drawing to a close.
"John told me two weeks before he died that he had only days left," she says.
"I asked him why he was saying that, and he said that's what his body was telling him."
She adds: "But he always remained so brave, so positive."
Tributes to the veteran politician flowed in from near and far.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, a long-time, political foe, said Mr Dallat was a man of great courage and he paid tribute to his work as an advocate for his electorate.
"John and I fought many elections as rivals," said the veteran DUP man. "At a time when being in the political spotlight placed not only our lives, but also our families' lives in danger, John didn't step back."
Mr Dallat's funeral took place on May 7, with social distancing restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Friends and party colleagues stood in silence as his cortege was taken to St Mary's Church in Drumagarner from his Kilrea home, followed by the 50-year-old Morris Minor Traveller he had lovingly restored and christened 'Norah'.
"John had all his arrangements made for his own funeral," says Anne.
"I was sitting in Norah as it was being driven behind the hearse. That was top of his wishes."
Helena adds: "The one thing we added as a family was a beautiful rendition of the civil rights song We Shall Overcome when his remains left his home for the last time.
"The recording was from Mairead Carlin, a Derry singer who sings with Celtic Woman and organised by Mark Durkan (former SDLP leader, MP and friend). It was a really emotional but special moment as, for us, it embodied everything that he was."
He loved his work with a passion, but first and foremost he was a family man.
Mr Dallat, who grew up in Kilrea, had worked as a teacher before being elected to the Assembly in 1998 to represent East Derry.
He served for many years on Coleraine Borough Council and became its first nationalist mayor in 2001.
He also served as Deputy Speaker of the Assembly from 2007 until 2016.
Having retired briefly in May 2016, he decided to re-enter political life when a snap election was called just eight months later, and regained his seat.
John and Anne met at a dance in a Protestant hall in Carndonagh in her native Donegal in 1970.
In an interview with this newspaper two years ago Mr Dallat said he still remembered what she was wearing on the night they met - a white poncho and pink hotpants.
The couple wed on August 16, 1975, when he was 28 and Anne 21, and toured around Ireland by car on honeymoon.
He liked his food and he liked to have his family around the table.
Sons Ronan (43) and Diarmuid (36) were born, and daughter Helena ultimately arrived to complete the Dallat family.
"He loved his work with a passion, but first and foremost he was a family man," says Helena.
"By his own admission he worked an awful lot and awfully hard, but whatever time we did have with him was pure quality.
"I remember, even as a teenager, he gave me the freedom to stay overnight with a friend but he wanted you home for Sunday dinner because everybody would be there.
"I'm very grateful for that now. He liked his food and he liked to have his family around the table."
Mr Dallat's untimely death, only months after his diagnosis, was also a cruel blow for his eight grandchildren: Caitlin (16), Killian (9), Christian (9), Amy (7), Caden (6), Sophia (6), Harriet (4) and eight-month-old George.
Granddaughter Sophia, who was always by his side when he went to vote at election time, has found it particularly difficult.
"She made a memory book," says Anne. "She started it when he was still living, and showed it to him.
"She'd drawn a picture of Norah, his car, and got cross that her markers weren't exactly the same colour as Norah's."
Sophia's mum Helena, who has another daughter Harriet with husband Ciaran (41), adds: "He never voted without her. The staff in the polling station were incredibly cute with her and explained everything to her. She understood the importance of it."
The mother-of two added that Sophia was struggling with the loss of her grandad.
"The other day we played Tig in the garden and she told my husband she had the best day ever," says Helena.
"We were quite relieved about that because she's been quite tearful, but in the next breath she said it would have been better if grandad had been there. She's always thinking of him."
Mr Dallat first realised something was wrong last summer when he felt unwell at Stormont and was taken to the Mater Hospital, where blood tests were done.
The doctor then rang him at home a couple of days later while he was having Sunday lunch to tell him she wasn't happy with the results of those tests.
John and Anne had wanted to break the bad news about his serious illness to their children at the same time, but ended up telling each of them individually over the phone.
Helena, an SDLP councillor for the Bann area, said that for her the day of the diagnosis "was like being hit by a truck".
"I pulled my car into a lay-by to phone them, and forced Mummy into telling me because I needed to know," she recalls. "The same day I drove my car around the house, which I've done a million times, but I hit the side of the house because I just wasn't focused.
"It was a tiny scratch; but it's only away to get fixed now.
"I wanted rid of that scratch. I don't want to relive that day."
She told how she eventually tidied herself up, washed her face and "once I thought I looked human again, I went to see him and gave him a massive hug. We both had the biggest cry".
Helena adds: "The next day he said: 'I can live with bone cancer, and prostate cancer is one of the easier ones to manage'.
"He kept using the phrase 'I can live with this'."
When the first of his six chemotherapy treatments was postponed due to circumstances beyond his control, a fortunate consequence was that Mr and Mrs Dallat were able to visit their newborn grandson George at Altnagelvin Hospital.
"If he had got his treatment he wouldn't have been able to see Diarmuid and Megan's baby," Anne says.
Halfway through his chemo, however, Mr Dallat slipped on autumn leaves and broke his right arm while out canvassing for Cara Hunter - who would ultimately replace him in the Assembly - when she was standing in the 2019 Westminster election.
But he didn't let it act as a deterrent to his work.
"He was back at his desk in two weeks," Helena recalls.
"He walked in with the broadest smile, took off his hat and just started back in."
She adds: "I don't think people realised that I was as shocked as anyone to see him."
There are going to be a lot of milestones coming up for us that are going to be very difficult.
Mr Dallat had been a tireless campaigner for justice for murdered German backpacker Inga Maria Hauser, who went missing in Northern Ireland in 1988 and whose body was later found in a forest park near Ballycastle in Co Antrim.
"He wrote a press release by hand about Inga Maria on April 5, then handed it to me and said 'I'm afraid that's my last one', because he was spent," Helena says.
"He had no energy left, but he made sure he did that."
A conference was due to take place last month to mark the 32nd anniversary of the brutal killing of the teenager, for which no one has yet been brought to justice.
Inga Maria's sister Friederike Leibl and nephew Viktor were due to attend, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"John always said that he wouldn't have wanted to leave this world without seeing her killers brought to justice," Anne reveals.
"Friederike was going to stay in our house; she broke down when she heard about his death.
"I still have every intention of bringing her here, though; it's what John would have wanted."
Meanwhile, recalling the close relationship Mr Dallat had with granddaughter Sophia, Helena told how he used to collect her from primary school on a Friday.
"He had a very good relationship with the head teacher at her school; I think Sophia felt that he was some kind of mini celebrity so she enjoyed it when he came to pick her up," says Helena.
It may be hard for all of them to adjust to life without John; but harder perhaps for Sophia when the schools go back after the lockdown.
"There are going to be a lot of milestones coming up for us that are going to be very difficult," Helena adds.