Tributes to 'unique' Sheffield couple who died within days of each other after 62 years of marriage

A ‘devoted’ Sheffield couple who died within days of each other have been given a fitting send off at the same church where they tied the knot more than 62 years ago.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 16:30 pm

Derick Neil died on June 25, aged 86, just six days after his 84-year-old wife Pat – for whom he had spent the last few months caring at their home in Beauchief – passed away.

Family and friends gathered to pay their final respects last Thursday at St Chad's Church in Woodseats, where the pair got married on March 9, 1957.

Derick and Pat Neil on their wedding day

They paid tribute to the ‘unique’ duo, who they said ‘cared a lot, loved a lot, did a lot… and are certainly being missed a lot too’.

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A moving eulogy written by the couple’s family ends: “Now they rest after so many decades as a devoted and hardworking couple, with just a short gap in their lives apart from each other.”

Pat and Derick met at one of the many tea dances they frequented at City Hall and the Locarno nightclub on London Road, which is today a Sainsbury’s Local, and it was the beginning of an enduring love story.

Derick and Pat Neil with (back row, left to right) their daughters Susan and Linda, and their daughter-in-law Tracy

They had four children together – two of whom, Craig and Gary, tragically died in the noughties – and were blessed with seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, all of whom they adored spending time with.

Pat’s family described her as a ‘unique, independent lady who lived life to the full but with a strong devotion to her family and friends’, adding that she was a character who was ‘always ready with a joke, smile and good advice’.

Derick, they said, had three devotions in life – his wife, his work and his beloved Sheffield Wednesday – and he was fiercely loyal to his family and friends.

“A warm, genuine, uncomplicated man, he was the rock of the Neil family,” they added.

Derick and Pat Neil on their wedding day in 1957

They told how Pat had been diagnosed five years ago with dementia, which had worsened rapidly during her last few months, when they said Derick’s devotion to caring for her became his priority, over and above his own wellbeing.

“That was Derick through and through. It seems his final goal was to be there for his wife, so his passing has really come as such a shock,” they added.

Pat was born near Blackpool but spent most of her life in Sheffield, where she lived in Woodseats before marrying.

She was one of six children and because life for her mum was not always easy she often had to help look after the family, which laid the foundations for a lifetime of caring for other people.

Derick and Pat Neil (fourth and fifth from the left) at their grandson Scott's wedding in Sheffield Botanical Gardens

She supported mental health patients at the old Middlewood Hospital, cared for older people in their homes, and worked as a silver service waitress at Kenwood Hall.

She was a keen singer, who performed under the name Pat Norfolk at various pubs and working men’s clubs, and she loved bingo – once scooping a £48,000 jackpot, the bulk of which she spent on a family holiday home in Chapel St Leonards, which they jokingly referred to as ‘Skegvegas’.

Derick, who grew up in Upperthorpe, was just nine when his father went to war and he was left to look after his poorly mother and younger brothers.

He left school aged 14 to become a joiner in the building trade, and went on to become a company director of TGN Construction.

He was a big Owls fan and a regular at The Robin Hood pub in Millhouses, but, like Pat, probably his greatest passion was spending time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Their daughter Linda said: “Mum and Dad were very easy-going with each other and rarely argued. They were complete opposites but loved each other very much. Mum took the lead in most situations, while Dad was a quiet and calm man.

“I think Dad was happy he could be there for Mum at the end, and they’ve now been reunited upstairs.”

Pat and Derick are survived by their daughters Linda and Susan, their seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.