Tributes to Fakenham GP who devoted working life to his patients
- Credit: The Preece family
A much-loved Norfolk GP has died at the age of 83 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
Dr Arthur Patrick James Preece, often known as Pat, would have been a vet had his asthma not made him allergic to cats and horses.
He opted for human medicine instead and moved to Fakenham in 1967 with his first wife Gida. They lived at Grove House in the centre of the town.
Dr Preece's only son Guy was born that year, and his subsequent second marriage to Janie in 1981 brought with it three stepchildren – Mark, Giles and Emily, whom he treated right from the beginning as his own.
Janie Preece said: "Pat was much loved by all his children and grandchildren – 11 in all. Never a great disciplinarian, he had a special knack of bridging generations and his children’s friends respected his kindness, wisdom and irrepressible sense of fun. In their teenage years, Grove House was a magnet for young people and the scene of many happy and informal gatherings which are remembered by them fondly today."
Dr Preece's life had been blighted by ill health since 1992 when he was forced to take early retirement for health reasons while senior partner at Fakenham Surgery.
His family say the letters and messages they have received after his death paint a picture of a highly-respected and dearly-loved family doctor, working within the NHS, who dedicated his working life to his patients.
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Thirty years ago, conditions for GPs were very different. Doctors were ‘on call’ for the entire practice on one night per week and one weekend in five.
Often a GP on night duty had to make house calls within a 10-mile radius. Since there were no mobile phones or even radios in those days it was not unusual for a doctor to make a house call 10 miles away, arrive home exhausted and then be sent out to another call just around the corner from the previous one.
Mrs Preece said her husband's enforced early retirement at the age of 54 left "a gaping void" in his life. A talented and competitive sportsman, he excelled at rugby, hockey, squash and golf. Retirement left him more time for golf at his beloved links course at Brancaster where he was Captain in 2007.
He relished the opportunity to travel, particularly to Africa, which had always been close to his heart. Together with his wife Janie he founded and ran Zanzibar Action Project (ZAP) whose aim was to give medical, educational and vocational support to the community of Jambiani, an extremely poor and remote fishing village.
The charity enjoyed wide support and eventually raised half a million pounds. Known as ‘Daktari’, Dr Preece gave his time to all who sought his medical skills.
Succumbing to the dreadful disease of Parkinson’s 10 years ago put an end to his regular visits to Zanzibar.
"Being a doctor, Pat must have been fully aware of the sentence under which he would henceforth live," said Mrs Preece. "But he faced it with courage and stubborn determination to keep going as long as he possibly could.
"Pat was fortunate to be supported and encouraged by a wonderful physio and a much loved carer, and until a couple of years ago he would drive himself to the Oasis exercise centre in Hunstanton. Covid unfortunately put an end to that.
"Sadly, Parkinsons is a condition which affects those nearest and dearest to the sufferer, and it is important for those people to gain an understanding of the disease and to seek the help that is out there for the whole family."
Dr Preece passed away on August 19.
His thanksgiving service was held at St Mary’s Church, Sedgeford on Friday, September 3. The service was led by Rev Richard Collier, a very old and dear friend of the Preece’s.
The choir was arranged and headed by a nephew, the singing was wonderful and all Dr Preece's children and grandchildren who live in the UK played their part that day.