Outpouring of support for lonely war veteran benefits struggling families
- 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.
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.
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.
The Normandy veteran said: "I feel so appreciative to everyone who has written to me.
"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.
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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.
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."