If ever the expression “Live for today” should be heeded, then just remember Lee’s attitude to life.
Lee was born on the 14th January 1986, a day that changed Simon and Vicky’s life forever. Lee’s love and enthusiasm for life was never greater than when he was playing sport, especially football and cricket. His love affair with Leeds United started on the 11th April 1992, when he went to his first game at Elland Road at the ripe old age of 6. Lee was hooked and another loyal Leeds United fan was born. In an amazing twist of fate, the star player on the front of the matchday programme that day was Gary Speed, who Lee met after the game. They’re now reunited in a better place.
1992 also marked the formation of another of Lee’s great loves – Collingham Junior Football Club. Lee threw himself into the club with enormous enthusiasm, and it was clear from an early age he had the ability to go onto greater things. In 1994, Lee achieved something beyond his wildest dreams when he was spotted by a Leeds United scout and offered a trial, aged 8. Following his trial, he was offered a place at the Centre of Excellence, where he was retained for 4 years.
"A smile costs nothing, but the memory of it lasts forever"
As well as football, he played cricket for Scarcroft CC in the juniors and then the senior teams. His last game in 2010 saw him hit the winning runs to guarantee promotion whilst batting with his dad, Simon – you couldn’t have written the script.
Lee’s life changed forever when, at the age of 9, he was diagnosed with epilepsy – a bolt out of the blue to everybody. Given the global lack of knowledge surrounding epilepsy, there were no guarantees that Lee would grow out of it, if it could be controlled, or if it could get worse. Immediately, he underwent full medical checks to try and diagnose the type of epilepsy he had, and how it could be controlled. He clung onto the hope that he would grow out of it, but sadly that wasn’t to be. Privately, he shed many tears worrying about how epilepsy could affect him, but he never wanted to burden his friends with something that he saw as his problem. He showed unbelievable strength in dealing with his condition, which never prevented him from living his life to the full.
Lee was the model pupil at Lady Hastings School in Collingham, St John Fishers in Harrogate and Northumbria University. His employers, from the Windmill Inn in Linton, the Scott’s Arms in Sicklinghall to Kitbag in Manchester all talk about Lee with great affection – a loyal, honest, hard – working guy who was a joy to have at work – with a constant smile. It was this determination on the 11th December 2010 that helped him achieve his dream job as a soccer coach in America.
Tragically, he never fulfilled that dream.
Even in his wildest dreams, Lee wouldn’t have believed that his premature death would have had such a profound effect on so many people but his legacy lives on through the charity created in his memory, Lee’s Smile.