KINDNESS RESTORES OUR FAITH - Grieving family moved by reaction after vandalism

KINDNESS RESTORES OUR FAITH - Grieving family moved by reaction after vandalism

Heather Cocks and her son Harvey with one of the trees PICTURE: PAUL WILLIAMS

21st July 2021

By Natasha Swift

The grieving family of a well known couple whose memorial trees were destroyed in a vandal attack have had their faith in humanity restored thanks to the community’s heartfelt response.

Roy and Judith Cundall, who died of cancer within six months of each other, asked for three chestnut trees to be planted in Mevagissey Park as their dying wish. Every year, as a family, they would collect chestnuts and it was always a challenge to see who was the first to find and eat one.

Roy and Judith were very well known in Mevagissey, having been the landlord and landlady of The Ship Inn for six years, and members of their family still live in the village.

Roy died at the age of 73 on March 28 this year just six months after Judith, 72, had passed away in August of 2020.

Cornwall Council agreed to plant the trees in the park on Valley Road and the family paid £1,500 to cover the cost of buying and planting the chestnuts. The three trees were planted on November 30 last year in the hope that future generations of Mevagissey families would enjoy them in years to come.

But the Cundalls’ daughter Heather Cocks, 49, was left devastated last week after two of the trees were vandalised. Three youngsters were caught in the act of destroying the trees, but ran off before they could vandalise the third one.

The trees were placed in metal cages that have also been bent out of shape, which Heather said would have taken a lot of force Heather told the Voice: “When they were both dying they didn’t know what to do, so because everyone is planting trees they thought it would be a nice thing to do.”

“Their grandchildren come down here all the time, so they said it’s something they could do for the generations to come. That was the idea.”

“I was devastated. I was just so upset because it was my parents’ dying wish. They were so pleased they were able to be planted. “

“They were £500 each so I could put them in again and they could be destroyed, so it just felt like it was pointless. But at the same time I really wanted them to be here.”

An appeal was launched by the Mevagissey Bay Association to replace the trees. Within 24 hours, £1,600 had been raised and plans were being put into action to start a Friends of the Park project on the back of the incident. Heather told the Voice: “I could pay to put the trees in, but there’s no point if the kids are just going to keep snapping them off. “

“So the fact they are getting the community involved to look after the park and just raise awareness is good. You just don’t want them going around destroying everything.”

“Something good has come out of this. I want to say thank you so much to the community for their kindness and support, I have had so many messages and all the donations. It has showed that as a community they have all come together and want to do what’s right. “

“People have suggested putting something on the trees saying ‘I’m not just a tree, I’m a memory’ which is a really nice idea. The kids probably thought it was just a tree that the council had put there, but it was more than that. “

“There is a lot more meaning to them.” Heather, who is a foster carer and support worker, said she was glad something positive was coming out of a “really, really rubbish year”. Heather was born with the life-limiting condition cystic fibrosis. Her parents were told she wouldn’t live beyond the age of 16, but thanks to her mum allowing Heather to eat whatever she wanted, the high calorie diet is believed to have helped to save her life.

A high calorie and sugar diet is now recommended for people with cystic fibrosis. When her parents become terminally ill last year, Heather didn’t hesitate to nurse them in their final days. Roy and Judith both decided not to go to hospital as they knew their only daughter would be at risk if she visited them due to her condition.

Instead they stayed at home and Heather bubbled with them, sleeping on the sofa or floor beside her parents until they passed away. Heather has spent 15 months self-isolating during the pandemic. She has four children and three grandchildren. Her older sons are fishermen in the village and her daughter is a nurse.

“There has been a lot of trouble in the community and there have been lots of little things like signs being damaged and people pulling stones out of people’s walls,” Heather explained. “We want to get the Friends of the Park project up and running to resolve the issues. It’s good to see the community coming together.”

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