"All we can do now is hang onto the good memories" - parents' tribute to 19-year-old Harry
PUBLISHED: 07:30 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:23 23 April 2018
A blossoming career teaching autistic children has been cut short for "loving, generous and compassionate" Harry Simons.
The 19-year-old died on the A149 at Thorpe Market on the morning of March 21 when his Vauxhall Corsa and a Hyundai Tuscan collided. He had been on his way from his girlfriend’s home to St Nicholas Priory Primary School in Great Yarmouth where he worked as a teaching assistant.
Around 250 people attended his funeral near his home in Hethersett, and his parents, Mike and Romy, said they have been “overwhelmed” by the messages of love and condolence.
“I think the saddest thing for me is he didn’t realise how well liked he was,” said Mrs Simons. “He used to think people didn’t like him and he was often quite down on himself.
“He was a pleaser. We used to tell him you can’t please everybody all the time. I think it was alien to him to think of himself.”
Harry, who struggled himself with dyslexia, became a teaching assistant after applying unsuccessfully to the army. Missing the cut-off date to join as a junior, he was asked to drop three stone to meet the criteria.
He was a “big lad”, his parents said, and played rugby for the Crusaders as a teenager.
In a couple of months he lost two stone, but it wasn’t enough for the army.
“There was an injustice in it for him and he got a bit disheartened after he put all that effort in,” said Mr Simons.
He had gained an NVQ in public services from Easton and Otley College in June 2015, and soon applied for work at the school where his mother teaches.
“It was working one-to-one with an autistic boy,” said Mrs Simons. “After the interview they asked the boy who he wanted, and he said Harry. It must have been because he was a nice person.
“I told him you can’t do this job unless you like children, because they know. He did really enjoy it. He liked the children.
“He was always very affectionate. Some boys don’t want to show their feelings but that wasn’t him. He always wore his heart on his sleeve and would always show his emotions.
“We had been in a really good place with him. He was thinking about saving up to get his own place and we were going to buy a place for him and his friend to move into.”
Around 7.50am on March 21 Harry had been driving to work when he overtook a lorry being driven by a family friend, who was first on the scene of the collision and called the emergency services.
“We have got that small comfort at least he was with a decent person when he died,” said Mrs Simons. “It was a comfort to know he wasn’t on his own. What really worried me was if he had been frightened or in pain but I don’t think he regained consciousness.
“Hopefully he didn’t suffer.”
The circumstances of the collision are still unclear and investigations are continuing ahead of an inquest in September.
But Mrs Simons added: “At the end of the day the result is the same because we do not have him in our lives any more. What caused it doesn’t change anything.”
But it has made those close to Harry check their own driving, and not “take chances”, said Mr Simons.
He said: “He had mopeds and motorbikes before he went on to a car. I used to worry when he was riding those, but when he got into a car I always felt he was a lot safer and would not be as vulnerable on the road.
“You should never have to bury your own children. We are getting through it day by day.”
The family have been sent bundles of cards and drawings from children at the school who were taught by Harry. At the funeral his older sister, Philippa, read a poem telling the story of a boy who had no trainers for PE.
Harry “thought nothing” of spending his own time and money to buy him a new pair, she said.
The lingering impression Harry left on those around him was of generosity, his parents added.
“Harry was a sensitive, gentle young man who was patient, caring and helpful,” said Mrs Simons. “He loved animals and was incredibly forgiving, preferring to see the best in people rather than the worst. His love of having fun brought great joy to those around him and was described by one friend as a gift.
“Normally when someone gives you a gift they don’t take it away again, but that is exactly what happened to our Harry, who was taken from us long before he should have been.
“All we can do now is hang onto the good memories and continue to love and miss him every second of every day until we can all be a family together again.