A SCHOOLBOY who was left devastated by the tragic death of his next door neighbour in a fire on his allotment is launching a campaign in his memory.
Hartlepool youngster Joe Yellow, 11, was left distraught after Ron White, 75, was killed when a fire raged through his plot on the Rossmere allotment site in Hartlepool in March.
Relatives say Ron was “like another granddad” to the youngster and the pair became inseperable, with Ron even teaching Joe how to swim and ride a bike.
Now Joe is launching a fundraising campaign in Ron’s memory and hopes to raise as much cash as he can for Help for Heroes, which was the former serviceman’s favourite charity.
Former Rossmere Primary School pupil Joe, who is moving up to Manor College of Technology next month, is giving up his beloved PlayStation for three days later this month to say thank you to his cherished friend who served in the Royal Navy.
Joe’s mum, Steph Llewellyn, 31, who lives with partner Darren Yellow, a cable puller, and younger son Alfie, seven, said: “We moved in next door to Ron and his wife Joan when Joe was a baby. Ron used to talk to Joe over the fence and over time Joe became Ron’s shadow.”
Ron’s widow Joan, 74, said: “Ron thought a great deal of Joe, and Joe thought a lot of Ron.
“I’ve never met a kid who could think so much of someone they weren’t related to. He used to go along with Ron to the allotment and help him there.
“Ron was like another granddad to him.
“It made me realise what a gem of a husband he was, and he’s missed by a hell of a lot of people. He was happy-go-lucky, and made friends with everyone.”
Joe remains friends with Joan and goes and sees her every day.
Joan added: “Joe was heartbroken the day Ron died, and came round to see me. It was lovely.
“He still comes to see me every day. Sometimes they go away in the caravan and a weekend seems such a long time without seeing the kids.”
For Ron, a former steelworker, the Armed Services remained a major part of his life even after he finished his National Service, which saw him serve in the Royal Navy for two years.
Joan said Ron was on the committee of the Navy Club for 48 years and was heavily involved in raising cash for injured servicemen.
She added: “Help the Heroes became one of Ron’s charities. Anything for them, and he’d be there. I don’t think people realise the amount of money they have raised, and what they do is incredible.
“At the funeral, all the flags of the organisations lined the driveway, that many people turned out. Afterwards, one of his friends took his ashes and buried him at sea. It was perfect.”
Joe, who has already raised £180 for the cause, said: “He’s done a lot for me and I want to thank him.
“I knew I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. I decided to give up my PlayStation because I go on it a lot.”
Steph, a volunteer farm worker, added: “He was sponsored by his teachers at Rossmere, including the headteacher, which was lovely. He’s already raised £180.
“Me and his dad are really proud.”
Joe gives up his PlayStation from August 22 to 25 and to donate, visit www.bmycharity.com/joeyellow.