Families of Dean Matthews and Richie Jordan praise new memorial garden at Sunderland's Fans Museum
Devoted Sunderland fan Dean Matthews would be ‘over the moon’ to know he was part of Sunderland’s Fans’ Museum, says his wife.
The dedicated photographer passed away in November after testing positive for Covid 19.
Wife Karen and daughter Megan visited the Museum for the launch of its new memorial garden and were joined by Carol King and daughter Quinn, three. Carol’s partner Richard ‘Richie’ Jordan died of injuries he sustained when the car he was a passenger in was involved in a crash on the A19 in August 2019.
The memorial garden will be made up of stones which families can decorate in memory of their loved ones.
Karen Mathews said the family had been overjoyed to be invited to be part of the launch by musuem founder Michael Ganley: “We want to do everything we can to keep Dean’s memory alive, so when we were invited to come down to the museum, we were delighted,” she said.
"The memorial garden is such a lovely idea and Dean would be over the moon to know he was part of it.”
Megan remembered how devoted Dean had been to his beloved SAFC and the way family weekends had revolved around matchday: “He used to go with Grandad, then later he got us all season tickets,” she said.
"We used to go to the caravan at Hamsterley as a family – we would go on the Friday night, come back to Sunderland for the match on the Saturday, then drive back to the caravan.
“The garden is a lovely idea because so many people will be able to come down and see it.”
The family will let Dean’s youngest children, Alfie, 14, and eight-year-old Oscar, design their stone: “Then they can come back down, put it there and there will always be something to remind them of their dad,” said Karen.
Carol King said she wanted Quinn and one-year-old daughter Gray – born after Richie passed away – to know how loved their dad had been: “We want to create as many things as possible for them to remember their dad by,” she said.
"When the Fans’ Museum asked if they could put his Henderson’s Butcher’s football shirt on display, it meant the world.
“We have got a bench at the seafront, which is lovely, and the memorial garden will be somewhere they can come and reflect in a nice, peaceful environment.
"Football has always been a big part of my life and to me, this is what the Fans’ Museum is all about.”
Museum Founder Michael Ganley thanked sponsors Gentoo, Jewson, Re:Gen and Brewers Decorating Centres and said the garden would be a place to remember fans from round the world: “The garden is for everyone – it is open access,” he said.
"We want people to come down, pick up a stone and create a memory of their loved one. If they can’t come down, we will create a template online so people can fill it in with their design and we will paint it for them.
"We have already had a gentleman from Australia asking if he can do that and we’ve had fans from across the country in touch.
"This is what we are all about.”