Flowers and messages are cropping up in unlikely places – for a teenager who carried himself with a gentle politeness and had an extraordinary gift for spreading smiles, yet was fearless on the rugby pitch.
Floral tributes are regularly being placed in gaps in the family’s garden wall and quiet spots in Heeley and Meersbrook, where George Parsons walked daily on his way to school.
The 14-year-old’s shock death has left his young friends struggling to understand why the boy – affectionately known as GP on the rugby pitch – is no longer with them.
He loved music and sport, with real passion for rugby and playing the guitar. Like many teenagers he was keen on chart music but also loved everything from David Bowie to Queen.
George had a great sense of humour, a particularly cheeky smile and a warmth that could spread through a classroom, team of sportsmen or group of scouts. But it was his kind-hearted and unpretentious manner that made George stand out – he loved to listen to people and had an unusual talent for caring.
His mum Vicky, a civil servant with a degree in archaeology, said: “George liked everything. I’ll never forget the day he came downstairs dressed as Freddie Mercury just to make me laugh.
“From the day he was born there was something about him, he was an old soul.
“If I was upset about anything he would be there for me – he had an emotional maturity beyond his years.
“He couldn’t bear to see anybody miserable.
“He loved listening to people and was never happier than when friends and family were laughing and chatting.
“Even on parents evening the teachers said, ‘he brings sunshine to my classroom’.
“I was immensely proud of him.”
George’s dad, James Symonds, has been professor of historical archaeology at the University of Amsterdam for the last two years, and George and his mum had flights booked to visit on December 28.
James said: “I was so proud of my lovely boy who seemed to radiate a sense of kindness and compassion for others that was far beyond his years.
“I naturally hoped that he would grow up to share our interest in archaeology but to be honest I don’t think that he would fhave ollowed in our footsteps. He often talked about wanting to join the Royal Marines and qualified this, when I looked nervous, by saying that if he joined the armed forces he would like to serve as a medic.
“He did love to travel and took part in archaeological digs in Tornio, in Finnish Lapland, when he was seven years old, and in Bohemia, in the Czech Republic, when he was 12. He loved the excitement and camaraderie of life on an archaeological expedition, and was never happier than when he was surrounded by students and my foreign colleagues, who became his Czech and Finnish ‘uncles’.”
George spent Christmas Day at home with his mum, and other relatives including his aunt Sue and uncle Paul, enjoyed the usual festive celebrations and was looking forward to cashing in his favourite gift, a driving lesson.
There was no sign of any health issues when he said goodnight. The next day, Vicky shouted George at about 11am on Boxing Day morning to join everyone for bacon and sausage sandwiches.
“I shouted up the stairs and thought he was still asleep,” Vicky said.
“When I walked into his bedroom he was face down – I touched his head and knew at that moment.”
Vicky has been supported by friends and family since his death, but struggles to get through the days – particular during the late afternoons when George would normally have been home from school.
“It is everything. Everything thing I look at, everywhere I go and everything I touch.
“When it gets to 4pm, then it is unbearable.”
George’s school, scout group and rugby club have carried out their own tributes while waiting for his funeral details to be finalised, and his mum has one hope above all others.
“George was amazing – and a loving friend,” she said.
“My biggest fear is I don’t want people to forget him as they move through their lives.
“I’d like his friends to just try to save a little space for him. He would have been a brilliant friend during their lives, well he still is.”