Captain Sir Tom Moore’s mammoth charity efforts are to be formally honoured, as tributes were paid to the inspirational veteran.
The 100-year-old’s death has prompted reaction from around the world, after he raised more than £32 million for the NHS during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Charities have vowed that the legacy of Sir Tom, who died on Tuesday morning after testing positive for Covid-19, will live on “for years and years”.
His family said the last year of his life was “nothing short of remarkable”, and that he had “experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of”.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his contribution will be formally marked.
Describing him as an “inspiration”, the minister told BBC Breakfast: “I will ensure we mark his contribution properly and appropriately at the right moment.”
Asked whether a statue might be built “in possibly his home town or where he was born or in London”, Mr Hancock told LBC: “Yes, I do think that we should find a way, at the right time, to honour the contribution that he made to the NHS and he was an inspiration to so many people.”
Sir Tom set out to raise £1,000 for NHS Charities Together by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday last April – but his efforts struck a chord with the nation and donations flooded in.
In acknowledgement of his efforts, he was knighted by the Queen during a unique open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle in summer 2020.
Ellie Orton, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said Sir Tom “lifted the spirits of an entire nation” and demonstrated that “you’re never too old, you’re never too anything to care for people and to make a difference”.
She told the PA news agency: “He really was a beacon of hope, the optimism that he brought in and hope to us in a really dark and difficult time for this nation, and particularly for the NHS, is just incredible.
“He is held in such amazing high regard, he is a national hero and his legacy will live on in the NHS for years and years to come.”
The Captain Tom Foundation, which was set up to support causes close to Sir Tom’s heart, said its work would “aspire to ensure Tom’s message of hope becomes an enduring legacy”.
Singer Michael Ball, who recorded a charity single with Sir Tom which reached number one, said the Second World War veteran had left the public richer through his charitable acts.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said it was “an awful irony that he has been taken by this virus that he fought so hard to tackle”.
But he added: “He’s left us richer, hasn’t he, in every sense, and better off. He set an example for us all.”
Sir Tom had been taken to hospital on Sunday after being treated for pneumonia for some time and testing positive for coronavirus last week.
His family praised the care he had received from the NHS and said they had been able to spend time with him in his final hours.
In a statement, his daughters, Hannah Ingram-Moore and Lucy Teixeira, said: “We are so grateful that we were with him during the last hours of his life; Hannah, Benjie and Georgia by his bedside and Lucy on FaceTime.
“We spent hours chatting to him, reminiscing about our childhood and our wonderful mother. We shared laughter and tears together.”
They added: “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson described Sir Tom as “not just a national inspiration but a beacon of hope for the world”.
“In the face of this country’s deepest post-war crisis, he united us all, he cheered us all up, and he embodied the triumph of the human spirit,” he said.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen would be sending a private message of condolence to Sir Tom’s family, while the White House also joined the chorus of tributes.
Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan said Sir Tom’s legacy will inspire people to be better.
Vaughan, who awarded the staunch cricket fan honorary membership of the national side on his 100th birthday last year, told BBC Breakfast people “can take a huge lesson from Sir Tom about being a better person”.
Sir Tom’s fundraising efforts went on to inspire others to take on similar charity challenges, including Dabirul Islam Choudhury, who raised more than £420,000 by walking 970 laps of his communal garden in London while fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Mr Choudhury said: “He is our real hero and we will miss him terribly.”
The flag above 10 Downing Street was flown at half-mast on Tuesday evening, while landmarks including the London Eye, Wembley Stadium and Blackpool Tower were lit up and a tribute was broadcast on the billboard lights at Piccadilly Circus.
Floral tributes were laid at the gate to his family home in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire, as neighbours described him as “a legend, inspiring, a hero”.
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