NOT FORGOTTEN: Anna Kelton’s parents, Dorothy and Anthony, next to the cherry tree
NOT FORGOTTEN: Anna Kelton’s parents, Dorothy and Anthony, next to the cherry tree

A TREE has been planted to mark the first anniversary of the death of a Barnard Castle service veteran.

Anna Kelton died unexpectedly on August 31 last year, aged just 30. Now the former Royal Navy logistician will be forever remembered after a tree was planted in her memory at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, in Catterick, where she and her family received support.

Ms Kelton fell while carrying 85lbs of equipment during a training exercise with the Royal Marines, changing her life forever.

She thought she had only fractured her ribs, but discovered she couldn’t use her legs properly, despite not injuring them during the fall.

She was diagnosed with conversion disorder, where psychological symptoms are converted to physical, and from then on, needed to use a wheelchair.

She also suffered from seizures, chronic pain, cluster headaches, memory loss and anxiety.

Despite that, Ms Kelton always had a smile on her face and lit up every room she entered – which is why the staff at Phoenix House welcomed the suggestion from her mother, Dorothy, to plant a weeping cherry tree in the centre’s grounds.

She said: “If Anna hadn’t come here, she would have had nothing to look forward to so it’s so fitting that we were able to plant a tree in the garden. It suits Anna.

“She loved gardening, living things and, in particular, cherry trees.

“When someone impacts on your life – and she impacted on so many lives – they shouldn’t be forgotten.”

John Kelso, who was Anna’s key worker, said: “Anna brought joy to the centre whenever she came here. For everyone who knew her, her loss was such a tragedy. But when this tree blooms in the spring, it will remind us how Anna blossomed all year round.”

While still serving, and receiving treatment for her injury, Ms Kelton took part in the first Invictus Games, winning two gold medals.

Her bravery and determination brought her to the attention of Prince Harry who sent a letter of condolence on hearing of her death.

It was while she was at the games that she heard of Help for Heroes and, on returning home to Barnard Castle to be with parents Dorothy and Anthony, started visiting Phoenix House where she threw herself into as many activities as she was able – from taking part in a fashion show to making wooden pens.

Bob Marshall, who runs the wood workshop said he always looked forward to Anna’s visits because of the “positive energy she generated”.

“She took great pride in her appearance and always looked like she was on her way to a photo shoot.

“She had an imposing presence, engaging smile and her entrance to the workshop was like switching the lights to bright,” he added. This time last year, Anna was looking forward to marrying fiancee James Croxford – like her, a former pupil of Barnard Castle School.

She was having intense physiotherapy in a bid to surprise him by walking down the aisle, and narrowing down her choice of wedding dress.

James, along with her brother Luke and her father Anthony, placed soil around the base of the tree in a short ceremony attended by other members of her family, friends, Help for Heroes staff and beneficiaries.