THE WIDOW of an Oxfordshire medic who died after catching coronavirus while helping in the community has urged people to stay at home.

Godfrey ‘Gof’ Smith was described as a hero by his wife Jane.

A former ambulance volunteer and professional first-aider, she said he had saved 'many, many' lives, but added his drive to care for others had cost him the ultimate price after he contracted coronavirus while helping someone in need near his home in Faringdon.

After falling ill, the 71 year-old father-of-three, self-isolated at his home in Jespers Hill, for five days, but when his condition deteriorated, he was admitted to Swindon’s Great Western Hospital, where he died two weeks later, on Saturday, April 4.

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Mr Smith was the director of Oxon Event Medics and was well known throughout Oxfordshire, providing medical cover for events at Oxford University colleges, Blenheim Palace, music events and festivals – including Truck festival, in Steventon, and Wood, near Wallingford. He and Jane were former members of Wantage Silver Band, playing, respectively, trombone and euphonium.

He also ran a mobile foot health care service called The Foot Man and was a long-time member of St John Ambulance – a former Wantage superintendent, County Duty Officer and decorated Serving Brother of St John.

In 2013, while working as a Community First Responder, he won enormous support in a dispute with South Central Ambulance Service which sacked him for driving at at 33mph in a 20mph zone in Oxford High Street, while on his way to help a man with breathing difficulties.

Mr Smith thought he was in a 30mph zone – as shown on his ambulance service sat-nav.

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More than 1,700 people signed a petition calling for his reinstatement after Mr Smith was featured in the Oxford Mail, which described his suspension as 'spineless backside-covering' by the ambulance service. He was successfully reinstated.

A tearful Mrs Smith, 67, who lives in Jespers Hill Faringdon with their son Matthew, 26, said: “Gof was a larger than life character and everyone knew him. I can’t believe we’ve lost him.”

She added: “He was so relieved when he was taken to hospital because he hadn’t been able to breathe and thought something would finally be done. But he never came back.

“He was on a ventilator for two weeks and went up and down, then was taken off the ventilator and put on a ward, but 24 hours later he died.”

She added: “Gof was a hero and saved many, many people’s lives. If one thing comes out of this it’s that people get the message to stay at home. I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what we are going through, so for Gof’s sake stay at home!”

Mr Smith had type 2 diabetes but was otherwise healthy.

Mrs Smith said: "Oxon Event Medics was doing so well and Gof had more work than he could cope with. He always regretted not having started doing it 10 years earlier.

"He had a stressful time dealing with the 'spineless' antics of SCAS and I want to thank the Oxford Mail for all the support given to him during all the unpleasantness he experienced from the ambulance service. That's what kept him going through that heartbreaking and emotionally-draining time."

She added: "He was larger than life, totally unique, and a lot of people knew him  and many won't know he's gone." 

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Robin Bennett, South Oxfordshire district councillor for Berinsfield and the co-founder of Truck and Wood festivals, was a friend of Mr Smith’s. He said: “Gof was a fixture on the festival scene, running medical facilities at events including Wood and Truck festivals.

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“Our team at Wood is small and close-knit, and Gof and Jane really became part of the family. It’s hard to imagine running an event without Gof, looking after our sick and injured festival-goers, cracking jokes, and occasionally even cooking us breakfast.

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“One special memory, covered in the Oxford Mail, was back in 2014 when we were closing the event with an all-star jam session wearing badger masks, and suddenly a badger in a medical outfit took to the keyboards.

"It took a while to realise it was Gof, reliving his 60s youth as a rock & roll keyboard player. He could more than hold his own!

"That was when we realised he was one of a kind.

Oxford Mail:

“It was through caring for others that he became infected with Covid-19.

"Our thoughts are with Jane, Matt and all Gof’s family and friends.

"We will always remember him.”

Oxford Mail:
Gof Smith. Picture by Megan Bennett​