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Barton widower Bob Lowe who inspired loneliness charity Silver Line hailed a 'hero' by Dame Esther Rantzen

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DAME Esther Rantzen has hailed as “an absolute hero” a Barton widower who inspired her to set up a charity to combat loneliness amongst the elderly after he died on Monday just a few days short of his 100th birthday.

Widower Bob Lowe made news around the world after Dame Esther revealed the heart-breaking letter he had penned to her following the death of his beloved wife Kath.

He had also included a poem about the agony of having to live alone following 65 years of marriage.

Dame Esther Rantzen with Bob Lowe, who has died aged 99
Dame Esther Rantzen with Bob Lowe, who has died aged 99

They spurred Dame Esther, who lives in the New Forest, to set up Silver Line – a charity which provides support to isolated elderly people.

She told the A&T: “I carried that letter around with me for a year. Bob sent it to me after I wrote about my own loneliness having lost my husband Des in 2011.

“It was a wonderful letter. Bob was a very talented writer and an even better public speaker. We used him to promote the charity and he subsequently developed a totally new career at the age of 89, which he was delighted about.

“He became famous around the world after the poem went viral. He told me he once opened his door to find an Australian TV news crew!”

Bob, a father of three, grandad of six and great-grandad of six, had met Kath in a park in Harrow, north London, near where they lived when she was 14 and he 16.

When war broke out he was called up, joining the Royal Army Service Corps, rising to rank of captain, and serving at one time in east Africa. He also saw action in the Burma campaign for which he received the Burma Star.

He married Kath after he was demobbed in 1946. Bob worked as a development engineer at a plastics company with the couple eventually moving to Barton. Kath was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Bob cared for her until her death in 2011.

Bob Lowe meeting then-Prime Minister John Major
Bob Lowe meeting then-Prime Minister John Major

Dame Esther became close friends with Bob after he started working for the charity as an ambassador. She said: “He was an absolute hero. An interview he gave for Sport Relief is really an extraordinary piece of film.

“He was able to so eloquently describe exactly what loneliness felt like. It moved people to tears all over the country and that year Sport Relief raised the most money it ever had.”

Bob was made New Milton Citizen of the Year in 2014 and also received an award from then prime minister Theresa May for his charitable efforts.

Dame Esther said Bob had been looking forward to celebrating his 100th birthday and she had visited him last Friday to give him a present.

She said: “He was in good form although he had just been released from hospital.

“We were planning all sorts around his 100th birthday to promote the charity. But he said to me although he would love to make it to his 100th, he felt he might not.

“I was pleased to be able to tell him that according to Chinese calculations he had already reached it as they date age from the moment of conception. He was pleased about that.”

Silver Line can be contacted via 0800 4 70 80 90 or www.thesilverline.org.uk

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