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Deputy editor’s tribute to friend killed in crash

A weekly newspaper deputy editor has paid a moving tribute to one of his oldest friends who was recently killed in a road accident.

Kevin Unitt of the Rugby Observer was checking police calls when he stumbled across news of the death of schoolfriend Dean Spalding.

Dean was killed earlier this month in a collision between two vehicles in the Husband’s Bosworth area of Leicestershire in which a young woman also died.

The 27-year-old was on his way to Market Harborough to do some Christmas shopping when the accident occurred.

Last week’s Observer carried a police appeal for witnesses to the accident, together with a first-person tribute to Dean written by Kevin.

With Kevin’s permission we are reproducing it in full below.

As people grow older, move away, maybe find themselves a love interest, friendships can drift apart, fond memories left in their place.

You think there will always be time to rekindle that camaraderie, but I just found out that’s not the case.

Driving through the village I grew up in on Friday evening – on a rare trip back to the area – I passed his house, hoping I would see his car on the drive, upon which I’d get out and knock, catch up with its owner and my old friend. It wasn’t. So I didn’t. And on I went.

I didn’t know he’d since moved elsewhere. And I only knew that when reading a death crash report in a newspaper on Tuesday.

It was Dean Spalding. Always “Spillo” to me. The guy that helped sort me out my first ever job in the kitchens of the village golf club, the pair of us washing dishes on Friday nights before blowing much of the meagre pay-packet on takeaway food or beer.

The college companion who’d been one of the very first to congratulate me when I launched a student paper there, as he knew I wanted my future career to be in that industry. The very first friend to visit when I had indeed secured myself a journalism job years later.

The gentleman who’d sometimes subbed me money years before when I didn’t have a job and we’d spend long mornings before his factory shifts at the betting shop where he’d show me how to win – at least sometimes – on the horses.

The guy first to arrive for my 18th birthday party when we went to the cinema? The guy who a few years later went with me to watch the film Football Factory two weekends in a row just because we had little else to do?

The guy I spent many a Sunday with at Suzy Q’s playing pool, extending our battles to best of three, then best of five, then best of seven, just so I could be in with a chance of winning at some point.

A guy so polite I once saw him accidently order £20 worth of chicken breast in a chip shop and not admit the error when he had the chance long before it was too late. The guy who on that same day journeyed back to my new home with me, him following behind in a new car he was showing off, not that showing off was ever in his repertoire?There are many other stories, other fond memories, but I would like to keep just a few to myself.

In death everyone seems idolised, made out to have been funny, charming and polite, yet here is a case where it could not be more correct. In life he was all this already. That is why he’d probably have wanted me to mention his condolences here to the family of Rudolfine Meszaros, the other person to tragically die in the crash at the weekend.

I wish Spillo back, for one more frame of pool he’ll beat me in, one more “sniff” (the word he always used with me for ‘pound coin’) in the fruit machine. One more anything.

He used to laugh each September time when I’d say to him that this would be the year 2pac, my favourite musician, would return from the dead as part of the conspiracy theory the rapper often talked of in his work. The last time I text Spillo this was in 2008 or 2009, to which he replied, as usual: “You say this every year!”

Indeed I did, but I promise I won’t say it every year about you my friend, because I know you are not coming back.

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  • December 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Good piece. Also a timely reminder for the rest of us to appreciate our family and friends this Christmas while we still have them.

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