'Inspirational' Chesterfield dad loses battle against cancer after spending Christmas with family and friends

An inspirational Chesterfield dad has lost his battle against cancer after achieving his dream of spending Christmas with his family and friends.

By Gay Bolton and Michael Broomhead
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 12:30 pm
Matt Evans lost his battle again mouth and throat cancer on New Year's Day.
Matt Evans lost his battle again mouth and throat cancer on New Year's Day.

Matt Evans, who was 47, passed away in his sleep at his home off Piccadilly on New Year’s Day.

His youngest brother, Jon, said: “Although we knew he was never going to win the battle, due to his fighting spirit we never thought that day would come. He was an inspiration in how hard he fought.”

Matt, who leaves a daughter Cerys, 16, and son Callum, who will be 21 on Friday, found out last spring that the mouth and throat cancer, which he was first diagnosed with in 2006, had returned and was inoperable.

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Matt had a traditional Christmas Eve drink with his old schoolfriends.

Jon said: “His main goal was to spend Christmas with his family and he achieved that goal. He had a quiet Christmas Day at his house and all the family went to see him. Cerys and his ex-wife Mel, who he was still very good friends with, cooked dinner.”

Matt posted on Facebook that day: “Perfect Xmas day, no stress, lovely prezzies, kids spoilt rotten, amazing dinner (thanks Mel)."

The day before Matt kept up a custom.

Jon said: “In his group of old schoolfriends it’s always been a tradition to meet on Christmas Eve, have a beer and have a photograph taken. Although he’d not been able to get out for many months to go to a pub, it was very important for Matt to get on that photo and make one more year. I think that was what gave him a bit of a fight, he wanted to make that photograph and have a pint which meant a lot to all of them and certainly to him.”

Matt Evans with his children Cerys, 16, and Callum, 20.

In October, Matt achieved his first ambition since his cancer rediagnosis – attending the launch of Gingerz restaurant on Chatsworth Road, Brampton. Matt and Jon had a long-held dream of owning and running a family restaurant and Jon said at the time of Gingerz opening that he was happy that his brother had lived to see their plan come to fruition.

Matt, who leaves his parents Paul and Valerie, two other brothers Andrew and Lee, and a sister Ami, was very sociable and had a great sense of humour.

Jon said: “He’d got different friendship groups all over the country and was welcomed wherever he went. He might have known people for only a week but once he met someone he stuck with them.

"He will be remembered for starting every day by wishing people ‘Morning’ on Facebook and hundreds of people would be saying good morning to each other.”

Lexi Whiteside, Matt Evans, Kelly Sheldon, Tim Beeton and Nikki Rogers. Pictures by Andrew Sigsworth, of the Groundhog Days, one of the acts on the day.

In his younger years, Matt played football for several teams in Brampton, including the Royal Oak where he was left-back. Jon said: “He made a lot of lifelong friends through that team.”

Matt earned a living as a professional gambler after he was unable to continue his job as a salesman when surgeons removed his tongue because of cancer. He bet on the horses and the highlight of his year was Cheltenham Festival.

Jon said: “That was like his Christmas. They used to make a big do of the festival at the Royal Oak, dressing up, sweepstakes and getting hundreds of people every week while the festival was on.”

Matt's close friend Nikki Rogers, who helped to raise funds for Matt and his children, said: "I am still struggling to believe he has really gone, it just seems too soon.

Dr Dan Shaw, left, and his wife, right, with Jon Evans and his sister Ami at the private launch of Gingerz BBQ on Chatsworth Road, Chesterfield.

"I have never in my life known such a strong and courageous individual, who having being diagnosed with a terminal illness for the second time, faced it with such tenacity and positivity.

"He was a huge inspiration, and his passion for life and ability to see the good in everything should be a lesson to us all.

"I will miss him terribly but knowing that he is no longer in pain is giving me some small comfort.

"He will live on in our hearts, forever and always."

Radio presenter Becky Measures said: “Never known a man so loved by so many as Matt Evans, it’s been an absolute privilege and honour to be able to call him a friend. His wit and selfless attitude clearly made him someone everyone wanted to be around! He was humble, funny, kind, never judgmental, and so courageous ….an inspiration who will be missed by so many, but how lucky were we all to have been blessed knowing someone like him.”

Tributes to Matt have poured in on Facebook. Valerie Burgess posted: “Matt was absolutely heroic throughout his battle and an absolute legend.”

Dave Evans commented: “He’s quite possibly the bravest person I’ve ever known and a true inspiration to everyone who knew him.”

Nichola Louise Beighton wrote: “Matt was an amazing person who will leave a huge hole in so many lives.”

Mark Gregory posted: “RIP Matt Evans – you made the world a better place. Was great to have known you and enjoyed playing football and drinking round town with you when we were younger.”

A funeral service will be held at the Crooked Spire Church, Chesterfield, on Wednesday, January 26, at 11.30am. The dress code is normal funeral attire but mourners are requested to wear trainers as Matt was an avid collector of the sports footwear.