'He never failed to put smiles on faces': Memorial garden to honour Tony

Lesley Saunders and Debbie Norman in the memorial garden.

Lesley Saunders and Debbie Norman in the memorial garden. - Credit: The Laurels/Kingsley Healthcare

Even though he could not speak he never failed to bring a smile to the faces of everyone around him.

Having enjoyed the best 10 years of his life at a care home in Lowestoft, a memorial garden is now being worked on as a fitting legacy to a much-loved former resident.

Tony Hurrell

Tony Hurrell. - Credit: The Laurels/Kingsley Healthcare

When Tony Hurrell died aged just 38, it left a huge void in the lives of staff and residents at The Laurels - Kingsley Healthcare’s learning disability home in Yarmouth Road, Lowestoft.

For his mother Debbie Norman, the quiet garden of the home where he had spent a decade was the perfect place to leave his ashes, in a dragon urn with an expression that mirrored his character.

And now, with the easing of coronavirus restrictions, staff are working with Mrs Norman to transform a shady corner into a fitting memorial garden to remember Tony after his death two-and-a-half years ago.

The focal point of the garden is a bench engraved with the words Swimming in the Stars, the title of a song by Britney Spears.

The memorial bench.

The memorial bench. - Credit: The Laurels/Kingsley Healthcare

Mrs Norman said: “Tony loved swimming and adored Britney Spears so the words are perfect for his memorial,."

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Toni Atkinson, who has managed The Laurels since it opened in 2008, said: “We’ll now be choosing flowers and shrubs for the garden with Debbie’s help.

"Debbie is still very much part of The Laurels family and she came to us for Mother’s Day.

“We’ll put up bird boxes and climbing plants on canes at the back of the garden that will attract insects and birds as Tony loved all kinds of wildlife.”

Mr Hurrell was born with microcephaly, a condition that meant his head and brain were smaller than expected.

Mrs Norman said: “He was not able to speak or learn but he still had a wicked sense of humour.

"He could express his emotions through his eyes.

"He loved going swimming and out on trips.

Tony Hurrell swimming at Center Parcs with staff Lesley Saunders and Mark Skitterall.

Tony Hurrell swimming at Center Parcs with staff Lesley Saunders and Mark Skitterall. - Credit: The Laurels/Kingsley Healthcare

“He also enjoyed happy holidays, going with staff to Hemsby, Felixstowe and Center Parcs.”

Lesley Saunders, among 10 staff at The Laurels with a combined service of 120 years, recalls her time as Tony’s keyworker with fondness.

She said: “He never failed to put smiles on faces and with Tony no two days were the same.

"He was a terrible flirt with the ladies!”