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A tale of triumph and tears.

Byline: By Barbara Argument Evening Gazette

Willie Maddren was the Boro hero who touched everyone on Teesside with his brilliant shooting star of a life.

He was the home-grown lad who sparkled on the local field of dreams as a player and a manager.

And he was the brave fighter who battled courageously against incurable muscle-wasting Motor Neurone Disease.

He told his own tears and triumph story in his autobiography, Extra Time, which swept to the top of the best-seller list on Teesside. It was dedicated "To my devoted wife Hilary and my adoring children, Lucy, Steven, Laura and David."

Now a new limited edition of 2,000 hardback copies is about to go on sale.

It will make sure in a very special way that the legend of Willie Maddren lives on.

The final moving chapter written specially for the reprint, comes his four children who remember him as "My dad, my hero." And from Hilary comes a last tender "I love you" written with tears and raw heartbreak.

It's been an emotional five years since Willie's death for 46 year-old Hilary ( and the exhaustion is showing.

She has thrown herself furiously into working for the Willie Maddren MND fund, which has raised well over pounds 250,000 ( at least pounds 40,000 from his book.

And as a counsellor for the local MND group, she works tirelessly to help and comfort victims and their families.

That work will go on, she insists.

But the fund-raising will stop after a glitzy gala evening at the Tall Trees Hotel in Yarm next week.

Her beloved Willie will always be in her heart and soul every single day, says Hilary. But the time has come "not to forget, but to move on". So she is selling the Norton home they shared and is searching for a new one in the country. She wants to pull on her green wellies and grow a garden full of vegetables. To enjoy the rural good life that has always been her dream.

But not before one final determined push to wrap up her beloved Willie's lasting legacy. His wish was to help fund a cure for MND and she is making a last effort with the updated autobiography and the celebrity dinner ( held on the eve of the anniversary of his death.

Graeme Souness, a friend and team mate, writes a forward to the new book. Willie, he says, was one of a rare breed.

"He was an outstanding man, a true gentleman whose personality, attitude and character stood out like a shining beacon in the world of professional football."

David Mills, also a Boro team mate, writes: "The word hero has been used on many occasions to describe the exploits and achievements of many men. You can add Willie Maddren's name to the top of the list."

And then there is Hilary. She wasn't sure she would be able to write her story of their life together, but she did.

"I sat at the computer and wrote solidly for hours in three or four sessions," she says. "It is my story, written from the heart. It was gut-wrenching to do it, but I decided the time was right and it had to be done."

Now she can only face the launch day convincing herself no-one will read it.

Of course they will. And there will be buckets of tears shed over the emotion of it all. The shy Willie who hesitated to ask the stunning Stockton florist out on a date ( until she threw him her card and dared him!

She confesses to being "besotted" by her lovely husband who took over as Middlesbrough manager on their return from honeymoon. It wasn't a life of luxury as in footballer's wives, she laughs.

"A win would mean a nice meal out, a loss and we would stay in with a Marks & Spencer special."

She remembers vividly the night he came home to tell her he was terminally ill.

"I don't think even I realised just how special he was until I saw how he coped with his illness," she says.

Hilary spares none of the detail in explaining the cruel effect of MND on Willie and the family. But in every line her love and admiration for his courage shines through too ( even when she is battling to get him to eat. Something, anything ( even semolina.

"Imagine my despair when he dared to turn his nose up at my pudding," she says.

"I scooped out the now very cold and thick semolina, made it into a ball and threw it at the ceiling ( where it probably is to this day!

"Willie had the audacity to sit and giggle like some naughty schoolboy."

Hilary says she "never once" thought of the 24-7 care Willie required as a chore.

"In fact, I relished the time we were alone together. I just loved being with him and would have spent the rest of my life looking after him if it had been God's wish.

"I slept at the hospice throughout those final days, refusing to go home for rest.

"No-one tells you that you'll spend hours listening to his breathing getting softer and softer until it finally stops.

"And no-one tells you he won't open his eyes for one last time before that last breath and tell you he loves you."

It wasn't Willie's passing which hurt, whispers Hilary, "It was the last 'I love you' that I didn't hear."
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Title Annotation:Issues
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 16, 2005
Words:912
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