A RETIRED teacher who died last year has given an air ambulance service its biggest ever donation – leaving the charity "staggered, stunned and completely blown away".

John Dodds, from Darlington, died last year at the age of 85 after battling cancer.

Mr Dodds, who was a big supporter of the Great North Air Ambulance, did not want to disclose the amount but the charity said it was its largest single donation in its history.

The GNAAS said the donation would pay for 200 rescue missions.

Howard Wilson, who was appointed executor of Mr Dodds will alongside Colin Bainbridge, said: “John loved GNAAS. He talked about the charity and the importance of the service all the time.

“John loved motorbikes and knew the air ambulance goes to lots of remote locations on rough terrain where normal land ambulances can’t go and it struck a chord with him.”

The Northern Echo: John Dodds, who was a keen biker, knew how important the Great North Air Ambulance service is in remote areas

The retired physics and maths teacher began his career working on the construction of nuclear reactors at Whessoe in Darlington before teaching at various schools across the North East and North Yorkshire.

Mr Wilson said: “I first met John around twenty years ago through a mutual friend. We had a shared interest in motorbikes and from there, we had a continued friendship right until the end.

“John was formidably intellectual and one of the cleverest people I had ever met. He was so humble and really enjoyed living a simple life.

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“He loved charitable work and used to help old ladies on their shopping trips and do book runs where he would pick books up from the library and take them to people’s houses who couldn’t get out. He was an avid reader too and loved history.”

GNAAS’ legacy officer, Hannah Powell, said: “John was such a friendly person and although he was quietly spoken, he had such a cheeky smile.

"When we first met, he sat down and chatted to me and told me ever so casually that he had decided that GNAAS was the charity to which he would be leaving his whole estate to.

“I am so grateful for John and others just like him. We couldn’t have survived the pandemic without gifts in wills and they made up 40 per cent of our income last year.”

The Northern Echo: John Dodds on a visit to the headquarters of the charity with Hannah Powell, GNAAS’ legacy officer

Although Mr Dodds never married or had children, he was in a long-term relationship with his late girlfriend Kate for over 50 years.

Mr Wilson said: “As you get older your attitude to life changes, and you realise you aren’t going to live forever. It isn’t the length of your life that matters it is the quality of it and John was happy knowing he had reached the end. He had an amazing life and wanted to pass.

“John’s religion was important to him, and he believed when he died, he would be reunited with Kate and knew it wasn’t the end of a life but the start of a new one.

“Even on his death bed he never once moaned or complained, and I always admired that about him.”

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GNAAS’ director of operations, Andy Mawson, said: “It’s only thanks to people like Mr Dodds, and all those who contribute amounts both large and small, that we can keep doing our work.

“John lived a full life. But in this act of generosity he has ensured that his death isn’t the end.

“His donation will literally save lives. What better way to be remembered?”

GNAAS needs to raise £6.7m a year to survive. If you would like more information about leaving a legacy donation, or helping in any other way, please visit www.gnaas.com or call 01325 487 263.

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