Tributes paid to former Berkhamsted mayor Victor Earl after he loses his fight with rare disease

Former Berkhamsted Mayor Victor Earl passed away on July 16, 2014. PNL-140708-123347001
Former Berkhamsted Mayor Victor Earl passed away on July 16, 2014. PNL-140708-123347001

A ‘kind, funny and brave’ former Berkhamsted mayor has lost his battle with a rare debilitating disease.

Victor Earl, who was town mayor from 2002 to 2003, was diagnosed with multiple system atrophy eight years ago.

The devastating condition is caused by the degeneration or atrophy of nerve cells in several areas of the brain, which can cause problems with movement, balance and automatic functions of the body such as bladder and blood pressure control.

His wife Freda, who served on the town council alongside Victor during his second term and also did a stint as town mayor in 2006, said: “You know that sooner or later you will be unable to do anything. It is not curable. It is not treatable really except purely palliative care. It is an absolute stinker of a disease.

“The very worst time is when you are first diagnosed. Most people find that the worst stage when they first realise what they might be in for.”

Freda, of Trevelyan Way, Berkhamsted, said her and Victor received great support from the Multiple System Atrophy Trust and the Hospice of St Francis and before his passing the grandfather-to-two requested that instead of flowers at his funeral people should donate to the charities.

Freda said: “Everybody was absolutely marvellous. I got a huge amount of support and information.

“I’m extremely lucky I have got some amazing friends and they have been an unbelievable support.”

Victor’s condition deteriorated following a bad fall back in March, which meant he was confined to a bed. “One of the few things you can do to help is to keep using your muscles,” said Freda. “If you are in bed you go downhill very rapidly.”

He passed away on July 16, aged 78.

The couple first met in Devon while working during the summer break from their universities. They were married in 1968, when Freda was 21 and after Victor, who was 23, had just completed his National Service. They went on to have a daughter named Catherine.

The pair left Cambridge and set up their family home in Berkhamsted in 1975, so that Victor would have an easier commute to his journalism job with The Economist.

“We thought this is a good place, we like this and we have never changed our minds,” said Freda, who cared for Victor throughout his illness.

“We were very, very lucky. We had a good marriage. He had always been such a support to me and had always looked after me. I felt really this was pay back time so there was no way I wasn’t going to look after him as well as I could.

“He was kind, he was funny and he was brave.”

Councillor Carol Green, who served alongside both Victor and Freda on the town council, said: “He was a lovely old English gentleman, who always worked hard to try and be fair to everyone.

“He worked very hard for the benefit of all the people in the town.”

Victor’s funeral is being held on Monday from 12.15pm at the Chilterns Crematorium in Amersham.

Donations to charity can be made via JJ Burgess and Sons, 20 The Common, Hatfield, AL10 0ND.

At the next full Berkhamsted Town Council meeting on September 29, a minute’s silence will be held.