Outpouring of support for lonely war veteran benefits struggling families

John Lister, 101, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with Christmas cards since revealing his experience of loneliness during lockdown

John Lister, 101, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with Christmas cards since revealing his experience of loneliness during lockdown - Credit: Marcia Hughes

An outpouring of kindness towards a Normandy veteran who opened up about loneliness during lockdown has also come as a boost families in need.

John Lister spoke publicly about the challenges of living in isolation after losing his wife of 70 years and lifelong companion, Ella, to coronavirus.

Ella, 91, and John Lister, 100, celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary at Thorp House Nursing Home

John Lister with his wife, Ella, who died earlier in 2020 after contracting coronavirus - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

But the 101-year-old, who lives at Thorp House care home in Griston, near Watton, could never have foreseen the astonishing reaction to his story from across the globe. 

Throughout December he was inundated with thousands of Christmas cards, not to mention hundreds of generous gifts. 

John Lister, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with gifts and cards

John Lister, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with gifts and cards - Credit: Marcia Hughes

Mr Lister, who lived for many years in Deopham and ran the Half Moon pub with his wife, has even received personal letters from Captain Tom Moore and Sir Richard Branson. 

But the Second World War gunner, who will sadly be spending the New Year in hospital but is said to be doing well, wanted some of the gifts to go to struggling families in the Watton area. 

As per Mr Lister's wish, they were handed over to the Reverend Gerry Foster, of St Mary’s Church, and distributed through the Holiday Kitchen, which has helped families throughout the pandemic.

Gifts sent to John Lister were handed over to the Reverend Gerry Foster of St Mary’s Church, Watton. She is pictured with Sophie Barnard and her son, Matthew

Gifts sent to John Lister were handed over to the Reverend Gerry Foster of St Mary’s Church, Watton. She is pictured with Sophie Barnard and her son, Matthew - Credit: Kingsley Healthcare

The Normandy veteran said: "I feel so appreciative to everyone who has written to me.


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"I still miss Ella but I know I am not alone with my family and all these people supporting me."

Postal staff estimate Mr Lister has so far received a total of 10,000 cards from countries such as the Philippines, Brazil, Tanzania and Gibraltar, with 6,000 still to be opened.

John Lister, 101, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with Christmas cards since revealing his experience of loneliness during lockdown

John Lister, 101, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with Christmas cards since revealing his experience of loneliness during lockdown - Credit: Marcia Hughes

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Gifts have ranged from chocolate and wine to a signed Norwich City shirt with 101 on the back, while one notable card from a mother who struggled during lockdown was adorned with her newborn baby's footprint.

Others to get in touch include the BBC's Dan Walker, Basil Brush and Eastenders actress Emma Barton, as well as current and ex-military personnel.

John Lister, 101, who lives at Thorp House in Griston, near Watton, has been inundated with Christmas cards since revealing his experience of loneliness during lockdown

Among the gifts sent to John Lister was a signed Norwich City shirt with 101 on the back - Credit: Marcia Hughes

Marcia Hughes, wellbeing and activities coordinator at Thorp House, added: "There has been an outpouring of emotion from the public - young and old - of grief, loss, fear, love and hope.

“John has been the main focus for this, but what has become clear is that he has given people a place to pour out their hearts of their own loss and struggles."


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