Wednesday, January 29, 2014
HEARTFELT tributes have been pouring in from the Exmouth community for a 41-year-old unemployed man ‘with a heart of gold’ who died suddenly in his sleep last November from a brain haemorrhage.
Stephen Aaron – described as ‘somebody who lots of people befriended, but didn’t have many friends’ – was a tireless and dedicated volunteer, who worked quietly behind the scenes with many of Exmouth’s charities and community groups.
At his funeral service, held earlier this month at Exmouth’s Glenorchy Church, nearly 100 people from all walks of the town’s life were surprised to learn that Stephen was the common link between them all.
As well as volunteering at the Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton Oxfam shops, Stephen helped out at the Open Door Centre, the Community Larder, the Rotary Club, Transition Town Exmouth, Exmouth Town Council events – including the Exmouth Festival – the Blackmore Theatre and the Exmouth Shanty Men. He also attended the weekly Glenorchy Work Club, later becoming a regular at the Glenorchy Church.
Away from his volunteering, Stephen enjoyed a drink at The Phoenix where he was noted as a good darts player. Regulars described him as a man ‘with a heart of gold’ who will be sadly missed.
The tributes were led by the Reverend Robert Jennings, of Exmouth’s Glenorchy Church, who conducted Stephen’s funeral.
“Lots of people in Exmouth knew Stephen and have been affected by his death,” said Robert. “He was a bit of an odd character, but got under your skin. He was somebody who lots of people befriended, but didn’t have many friends.”
“I don’t think any of us believed how many people turned up in the church and how much he’d been involved in so many different things in the town,” said former Exmouth town clerk John Wokersien.
“He’d help with Rotary events such as the Kite Festival. He’d turn up and do odd jobs and make himself useful.
“He did the same for the Shanty Men. He’d come along to our gigs, help with getting our stage together, fetching and carrying materials.”
“Stephen was everywhere in town, and at so many events,” said Exmouth arts manager Carla Hiley. “He was so sweet and supportive, but in a quiet, understated way. Every morning at the festival, he’d have a cup of tea waiting for me.”
“Stephen was always ready to help people and was there when you needed help,” said Noel Harrower from Transition Town Exmouth. “We were staggered by the number of people who attended his funeral.”
Born in Dartmouth in 1972, Stephen grew up in London. As a child he became ill with meningitis. Possibly as a result of the illness, Stephen had learning and behavioural difficulties. After school he drifted from job to job. He returned to Devon to study farming at Bicton College. Unable to find agricultural work, he stayed in the area, eventually moving to Exmouth. He died on November 27, 2013.
“There was shock and surprise at the news of Stephen’s death,” said Robert Jennings. “He leaves a big hole in the Exmouth community.”