Loving father dies after ‘cruel’ disease

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Tributes have been paid to a devoted family man who died following a courageous six-year struggle with motor neurone disease.

Chris Olley, from Bank Side in Long Melford, died at West Suffolk Hospital on Monday after suffering from pneumonia. He was 52 years old.

Mr Olley, who was well known in the community through his volunteer work with AFC Sudbury, was diagnosed with the rare condition, which gets progressively worse and damages the nervous system, in 2007.

He leaves three children, Megan, 25, Rebecca, 23, and Georgina, 20, plus three step-children, Amie, 27, Anthea, 24 and Jordan, 22. His sisters, Jenny Olley and Jane St Ledger, live in Great Cornard, as does his mother Evelyn, 78.

“His family thought the world of him,” said Jane, his oldest sister.

“He had such a cruel disease, but he never moaned about it and was so courageous. He never worried about himself and, in the end, he went on his terms. I’m so proud he was my brother.”

Jenny, from Eldred Drive, said her brother had battled the muscle-wasting disease with steadfast determination and had a great sense of humour.

“He was so positive and was always having a joke,” she said. “Even in hospital he was making people smile.”

Once diagnosed with the illness, sufferers are usually expected to live for between six months and two years.

Mr Olley’s daughter Rebecca said this had led to the family appreciating every moment with him.

“We thought he wouldn’t see his children get married or have children, but he did both,” said Rebecca, who has a two-year-old son, Henry.

Mr Olley, who campaigned to raise awareness of his condition, escorted Megan down the aisle when she married in May. She described the occasion as her “greatest memory”.

Mark Pearman, chief executive of AFC Sudbury, said Mr Olley, who sold advertising and sponsorship for the club until last season, when he was forced to leave the role as his condition deteriorated, was a “unique character”.

“Chris was a most delightful, engaging and fun-loving man,” he said.

“We have lost so much more than a devoted and dedicated club man. Many of us have lost a very dear friend, a humble, selfless man who showed great strength, courage and dignity during his battle with illness.

“He was simply an example to us all. Such a very special man, we will miss his company, his humour and that mischievous smile. He will undoubtedly be sadly missed. As a mark of respect there will be a minutes applause prior to our home game against Ware this Saturday.”

Mr Olley’s funeral will be held at the Holy Trinity Church in Long Melford at 1pm on Friday, December 21. His wake will take place at AFC Sudbury.