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Claude Clark

Claude Clark, was a well known figure in Nottingham, having lectured in carpentry in Nottinghamshire college for 29 years.

He died on 24 January 2007 at his home in Woodborough, just one month before his 70th birthday, after being diagnosed with the asbestos illness mesothelioma only three weeks earlier.

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer mainly found in people who worked on jobs where they inhaled asbestos dust.

Better known as Nobby, he worked in carpentry and joinery after leaving school. Starting as an apprentice in his home town of Exeter and working in odd carpentry and building jobs, he was eventually promoted to a foreman, after taking various college courses. He finished working in the trade in his early 30s to begin lecturing in Nottingham. After retiring he continued to create and restore furniture at home.

Nobby would most certainly have inhaled the dust that caused his death during the time he spent at work as a joiner. Tasks involving the breaking and cutting of asbestos containing materials create asbestos dust which is deadly when inhaled. Based on his detailed work record it's obvious to his wife of 36 years, Anne, that the disease took at least 40 years to develop.

Anne said:

"He had undertaken work throughout his life in repair and restoration where no one had mentioned the possibility of coming into contact with asbestos and no preparation or protection was offered. In his later years as a lecturer he became very aware of the dangers of contact with asbestos and was a keen promoter of health and safety. As foreman Nobby stopped a job that would have put his workers at risk of exposure to the material."

Unfortunately for Nobby the painless exposure to the dust was silently catching up with him. In March 2006 the keen cyclist and sportsman, who won 13 medals for sports from Judo to Swimming to rowing throughout his life, began to feel a bit ill - tired and lacking an appetite. But it wasn't enough to stop him cycling and neither him nor his wife suspected anything more than a minor cold or the effects of old age.

Nobby was still cycling until July 2006, just six months before he died. He kept a record of his cycling and his last 10 mile journey was to get the Sunday papers.

In August 2006 they celebrated their wedding anniversary by walking in Castleton, Derbyshire, the place where they had got married and where Anne's parents were from. At the time Anne felt that Nobby was still reasonably fit and well. He was tired and had lost his appetite but there were no clear symptoms of serious illness.

In September of that year the couple decided to go to the doctors. By this stage he was deteriorating and they knew something was wrong but they had no idea the illness could be related to asbestos, they were just puzzled by his increasing breathlessness.

Within a fortnight they saw a consultant but in spite of numerous tests no cancer was found and it took until January 4 for the diagnosis of mesothelioma to be made. Nobby was given two months to live.

Anne said:

"Since we got the diagnosis and since he died I think I have been in post-traumatic shock. The speed with which everything happened has been terrible. My three daughters have been devastated - perhaps because they are all older it makes it worse. I didn't have the energy to support them, I was in total shock. The doctor says it was lucky he didn't have a lot of time to know before he died - which it is for him, but I'm not sure about for us."

"It happened so quickly I realised after the diagnosis in January that I'd not even told our closest friends he was ill."

Anne nursed him at home as he dramatically deteriorated.

Having now realised that for their entire marriage he was at risk of developing the disease Anne is keen to ensure young trades people ensure they are not exposed to asbestos.

She said:

"If you think there might be asbestos present seek advice and where required bring in a licensed contractor, if you don't you're at high risk."

"I would hate to think of young people in the trades being ignorant to the dangers of asbestos and the high risk to your life and would urge everyone to take care. Asbestos is still present in thousands of buildings and tradesmen are at risk of breathing the dust in when they work"

Currently six joiners die every week as a consequence of exposure to asbestos dust while at work. Asbestos is a real and relevant risk to today's tradesmen, any building built or refurbished before the year 2000 could contain the deadly substance.

Since Nobby's death Anne has received a great deal of support from the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Group and friends and family in the village they've lived in for 33 years. Although she's still grieving she is trying to get on with her life and stick to the routines they had in the hope of restoring some normality back into her life.

Updated 2012-10-04