Tributes paid to Haverhill sports coach Neil Mustoe who was a ‘friend to everyone’
A wave of collective sadness has been felt across Haverhill this week following the death of a charismatic and popular football and running coach.
And the tributes to Neil Mustoe, who died last Friday at the age of 52, less than three years after being diagnosed with the incurable condition, Motor Neurone Disease (MND), bear testament to how much he was loved.
Neil had been a youth football coach for 14 years, with his clubs including Grampian Gunners, Kedington Youth FC and, most recently, Haverhill Rovers and up until his diagnosis with MND in July 2019 he had also helped to coach the beginners’ sessions at Haverhill Running Club, which he had joined in 2015.
In October 2020, he completed a virtual London Marathon in a wheelchair, raising more than £8,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).
It took Neil 20 hours and 32 minutes to complete the marathon, all the while accompanied by his partner, Helen George.
Neil died on Friday at his sister Rachel Martin’s home in Pask Avenue, Haverhill, where he and his youngest son Louis, 19, a brother to Joe and George, had lived for two months since Neil had to give up his specially adapted bungalow in Blair Parade.
Rachel, who is two years younger than Neil, said her brother maintained his sense of humour right up until the last.
She said: “He was still talking on Friday morning, having a joke, like he did. He never lost his sense of humour at all.
“I am so, so proud of him and the way he fought and how brave he was. He didn’t want to give up at all but at the end he was done. He couldn’t do a thing.”
Reacting to the large number of tributes made to Neil on social media since he died, Rachel said: “He was just a friend to everyone. He got on with everyone.
"He was a real big figure within the running club. Just a really nice, likeable man.”
Marc Benson, who joined Haverhill Running Club at the same time as Neil and went on to become a good friend, said: “The guy was amazing.
"Just in how positive he appeared to be and his outlook on life and the way he dealt with it, it was just the mark of the man.
“What was great about Neil, and I think this is what really shines through, is he was a very, very good runner, far better than I am, but he was always giving something back. He was a really keen volunteer.
“He would volunteer at the beginner sessions. While he was an extremely capable runner he was just there to encourage others. To him it was not about athletic achievement it was just about achieving it yourself.
“One thing I always think of (about Neil), it was the willingness to assist others and sometimes to sacrifice his own running times for other people and generally just to help.
“It was one of the ladies who did the beginners’ course at the same time we did and she used to call him Mr Motivator and he was like that because running can be hard and it’s not always fun, but he was there to push us and get us through.
“I’m just pleased that he got to experience lots of things in his life.”
Haverhill Running Club selects a main charity to support each year and this year it is fund-raising for a team at King’s College Hospital, in London, which is researching the protein that is deregulating in Motor Neurone Disease, something Neil was involved in
To donate to the cause go HERE.
In October 2020 Neil was voted the running club ‘Member Of The Month’ jointly with Helen for his amazing wheelchair marathon effort and was a lifetime member as a recognition of his work with the beginners' group. He has been a committee member and helped organise club events.
Although the funeral arrangements for Neil have yet to be finalised, Rachel confirmed that he will be buried at Haverhill Cemetery, as per his wishes. “He wanted to be buried here so that we’ve all got somewhere to go and where we can all have a chat with him,” she said.
The burial will be in private but there will be a service in Haverhill to which everyone will be welcome.
Rachel added: “I think it is going to be huge because there are so many people that want to go.”