Great Yarmouth shows community spirit for forgotten Reg

A CARING community is rallying to bury an old man forgotten by his family but adopted by local people who have vowed to make him “king for a day.”

Reg Sapey was a well-known character in the Northgate Street area of Great Yarmouth, walking up and down the busy hub several times a day, tipping his hat towards shopkeepers and neighbours who in turn looked out for him.

Now people living in the area where alarm bells rang if Reg was absent for a few days, are committed to giving him a decent funeral, although he left little money and few clues about his early life.

Leading the challenge to unravel the few frayed ends of his life is Anita Graves, office manager and funeral arranger at Arthur Jary and Sons in Northgate Street.

Over eight years the 46-year-old connected with Reg on an almost daily basis. She said: “We happened to notice an old man walking up and down Northgate Street, first you smile, then you wave, then you say hello and it goes on from there. We got to know him as Reg, he would stand outside our window when he walked past until we waved.”

“Reg died nine weeks ago but the story just gets sadder and sadder.”

Having tracked down a nephew in Canada, Mrs Graves has discovered that his lonely death was matched by an equally forlorn birth. His parents were Arthur Sapey and Lilly Yaxley. Lilly’s brother was Arthur John Sapey, the Canadian nephew’s father.

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He had half sisters Margaret and Gladys and an adopted sister Barbara, who he probably never knew.

Family lore has it that when Reg was a teenager, he had a farm accident involving a tractor. He was reportedly pinned under it for several days before help arrived. He either lost his mind or suffered a brain injury and was institutionalised. Records reveal few traces of him before 1999 when he made a will which couldn’t be executed because the solicitor had died.

“It’s as if he never existed before then,” Mrs Graves said. “There is nothing to say how he lived as a child, I did not even know when his birthday was until he died. I just want to make a fuss of him and make him a king for a day. It just seems so sad. You cannot live a nobody and die a nobody.”

Silk floral tributes have been donated by a company in Liverpool and after the funeral there will be a gathering at the Apollo Tavern in Northgate Street where Reg was a regular after the Crystal shut.

Mrs Graves praised the community spirit around Frederick Road where Reg lived and in Northgate Street. His bungalow was sparsely furnished but immaculate. His only luxury was his Sky TV.

A handful of drinking pals and his carer are expected at his funeral on Wednesday at St Nicholas Church at 10am followed by burial at Caister. Everyone involved has given their services for free although it is expected there will be enough money to cover the burial.