Don Wilkes, one of the Horton General Hospital’s most loved and unwavering campaigners, has died aged 79.
Members of the Keep the Horton General Campaign will form a guard of honour for Mr Wilkes’ coffin at his funeral at Banbury Crematorium tomorrow (Friday).
Those attending are asked to wear something red in homage to his passion for his home city football club, Liverpool FC.
“He was a Liverpool man through and through. He adored anything to do with Liverpool FC and was a staunch supporter of the misrepresented victims of the Hillsborough disaster,” said son Steve Wilkes.
“He was a great union man and always on the side of the underdog. He never forgave Margaret Thatcher for her part in Hillsborough and her legacy on British industry.”
Don Wilkes was born in Huyton, Liverpool, and in spite of profound hearing loss, passed his 11+ to go to grammar school.
He was apprenticed in the printing industry and later moved to Leamington Spa where he became a typesetter.
He married Sue Madra in 1963 and had two children. Living in Middleton Cheney he worked for WW Web Offset on Tramway Estate. There he became shop steward and experienced some unpopularity when printing magnate Woodrow Wyatt wrote to strikers’ families suggesting they could blame Mr Wilkes if they lost their homes.
“Workers had voted to strike - he was just the one to organise the action. It was just like a classic strike with a brazier outside the gates,” said Steve Wilkes.
Mr Wilkes left printing in 1979 and became a double glazing salesman for Anglian, having a stall on Banbury’s busy market for 15 years.
He retired in 2000 but enjoyed part-time work taking sales leads for the bathroom department at Wickes. He recalled having to clear up after newly toilet-trained toddlers used the showroom lavatories.
After two brushes with cancer, Mr Wilkes was moved by the huge campaign to save acute services in Banbury and put his campaigning zeal to work for the Keep the Horton General Group.
“He was part of the Hands Around the Horton event, various NHS marches ,even to Westminster, and was part of the big fight against downgrading of the Horton in 2006,” said his son. “He was always worried that future generations might not have local services.”
Mr Wilkes was airlifted from Banbury Golf Course after suffering a cardiac arrest in 2012 and was described as the ‘illest man in the John Radcliffe Hospital’ that night.
He had a quadruple bypass but last autumn developed new heart problems. He underwent two operations to correct a faulty valve but died on Good Friday of complications resulting from previous infections.
“His greatest legacy would be that people keep fighting for the Horton General Hospital,” said Steve Wilkes.
Mr Wilkes leaves his partner Joyce, his two children and four granddaughters.