Tony Marchbank was remembered as a “true gentleman” by family and friends who gathered at the Italian Club, in Rugby, last week, to say goodbye to the man who dedicated more than 20 years of his life to the club.
Mr Marchbank, who died on Wednesday October 10, suffered from amyotrophoc lateral sclerosis (ALS), the same illness that afflicted famous physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking. ASL is a type of motor-neuron disease that attacks the nerve cells in muscles. He was 57.
Mr Marchbank started off as the club’s general manager and later became part owner.
He had been ill for the last two years, although his wife, Laetitia, believes he was ill for longer.
“He had a pinched nerve for the longest time, but Tony always used to say, ‘I’m like Johnny Walker; I just keep walking’.”
He lost movement in his right arm but was still driving his car up until four months ago. A few weeks before his death, his speech was affected and he found it difficult to speak, but Ms Marchbank said most of the time she had known what he wanted.
“His chest muscles were affected the worst. He was on a machine to help him breathe. I was determined for him to not go to hospital. Myself and the children took care of him at home.”
Ms Marchbank was retrenched four months ago and said it had been perfect timing as she had been able to spend Tony’s last months with him.
He was cremated at the Maitland Chapel on Wednesday morning and afterwards, some 500 guests filled the club’s hall for a final farewell.
“I wasn’t expecting that many people,” said Ms Marchbank. “There were many stories that came out afterwards of what he had done for others that I didn’t even know about. But that was the person Tony was.”
The couple were married for 25 years, and Ms Marchbank said she was overwhelmed by all the messages that poured in after Tony’s death.
One came from as far as Italy where a priest who had known Tony through the Italian Club, said he would say a prayer for Mr Marchbank during the Eucharist.
Paolo Palmieri, who co-owned the club with Mr Marchbank, said he had been more of a brother than a business partner.
“All the staff looked up to him. He never had a bad word to say about anyone. He believed life is what it is. He will be missed.”
Pamela Poole, from the Brooklyn, Ysterplaat and Rugby Ratepayers’ Association (BYRRA), said Mr Marchbank had been a gem to the community.
“He was willing to give donations and help out with various organisations and charity events. He will be sorely missed,” she said.