Tree planted in Leamington man's memory - 15 years after original tree vandalised

Andy Parker's friends and family next to his newly-replanted tree and memorial stone. His sisters Julie (front row, third from left), Lindy (front row, fourth from left) and Caroline (front row, fifth from right) all helped campaign for the replanting
Andy Parker's friends and family next to his newly-replanted tree and memorial stone. His sisters Julie (front row, third from left), Lindy (front row, fourth from left) and Caroline (front row, fifth from right) all helped campaign for the replanting

Friends and family of a Leamington man gathered today (Friday June 1) to plant a tree in his memory - 15 years after his first memorial tree was vandalised.

Andrew 'Andy' Parker died aged 28 in February 1992 after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

Andrew Parker, who died in 1992

Andrew Parker, who died in 1992

A tree was planted in Jephson Gardens in his memory, but was destroyed by vandals 15 years ago.

But on Friday June 1, his sisters Julie Parker-Dodds, Caroline Parker and Lindy Parker, along with several other members of his family and friends, took part in a ceremony which saw a Golden Alder tree replanted next to the old memorial stone which was thought lost.

Many had travelled a long way to attend, with Julie and Caroline coming all the way from Scotland.

Julie said the ceremony was 'poignant', but also 'fabulous'.

Julie (right) gave a brief speech before the soil was moved

Julie (right) gave a brief speech before the soil was moved

She said: "The tree, to me, represents my brother's life - short, but strong. Having it back here again today is just heartwarming. It feels like a part of my brother's back.

"I'm so pleased that people have come to share their memories of him and celebrate his life."

The first tree was planted on land near the Mill Bridge thanks to the efforts of his father, former Leamington mayor Norman Parker, as well as a memorial stone. It was planted to be close to Leam Terrace, where the family used to live.

But while work was being done to the nearby Glasshouse 15 years ago, vandals broke into the compound, stole a JCB, and knocked down Andy's tree and his stone.

Caroline (left) and Julie (right) shift the soil to finish the replanting

Caroline (left) and Julie (right) shift the soil to finish the replanting

In the ensuing clear up, district council workers found the memorial stone and put it into storage. It was subsequently forgotten about.

Since that time, Julie and Norman had campaigned for the district council to restore the tree and the memorial stone, only to have their requests refused.

Norman passed away in 2015, so was not alive to see the display for his son restored.

But two years ago, green space development officer at the district council Jon Holmes found the stone in the council's stores, after Julie got in touch with him about restoring the memorial.

Friends and family then took their turn to shift the soil

Friends and family then took their turn to shift the soil

The tree was replanted six weeks ago to allow it to embed into the soil.

And on what would have been Norman's birthday today, Julie and Caroline helped shift the final bits of soil to finish the replanting near the Mill Bridge, followed by their friends and family.

Julie added: "My dad would have been proud as punch. We've come together as a family to mark my father's birthday and to remember my brother.

"It has been 15 years since it was unfortunately vandalised, and we thought we'd lost it (the tree and stone). The fact we found it again and it's back where it was is just amazing.

"It also means we've got somewhere to come and put flowers for Andy. To have somewhere local to stand and think about him, and to be able to see our old house, is just lovely."

Julie also thanked the district council and especially Jon for his work in making the replanting happen.

Andy's memorial stone, which was previously thought lost

Andy's memorial stone, which was previously thought lost

Jon said: "The tree's a really good asset to the gardens. It's going to be enjoyed by lots of people."