LESS than a year after moving to New York to start a new life with his wife and young family a Burnley man has died of lung cancer aged just 34.
James Butterworth, a keen sportsman, accomplished scholar and all round popular guy with a geat sense of humour, became ill at Christmas while on a family holiday in Florida. He underwent an operation to remove fluid from around his heart – but further tests revealed that he was also in the advanced stages of lung cancer.
He underwent a six-week course of chemotherapy but the cancer was too far advanced and had spread to his skull. Two weeks ago his devastated family were told that he had very little time left.
A group of six close friends who had been pals since their school days at St Theodore’s RC High School flew out on Saturday night and managed to spend some time with him before his death in the early hours of Monday in the Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut, with his wife and family at his bedside.
His father, Colin Butterworth and mother Liz Smith, had been with him in America since Christmas. His brother and sister, Paul and Sarah, who had been with him on the Florida holiday when he was first taken ill were also at his bedside. Brother Paul, another former St Theodore’s pupil who now lives in Boston, had travelled to New York every weekend to see his brother.
Friends said that James was devoted to his wife Colette (35) and they had gone to New York last March to live the American dream, settling in the Big Apple where James was an accountant with Deloitte.
They had married in Central Park while on holiday around five years ago. Now Colette will bring his body home for a local funeral next week.
She is planning to return to Leeds, where she met James when he was a student at Sheffield University, with their two young children Kate (4) and Alex (2).
The couple were devoted and inseparable and friends said that James’s death will leave a gap in all of their lives.
James attended St John’s RC Primary School and St Theodore’s where he took A-levels before studying economics and accountacy at Sheffield University. Before taking a job with top international company KPMG and settling in Leeds, he and Collette spent a year travelling, mainly touring Australia. He later went to work for Deloitte and after marriage and starting a family he took up an offer to work for the company in New York.
Old school friend Anthony Ashworth, who was one of the group of close friends who went out to New York to be with him at the weekend, paid tribute to his great pal.
He said that James was an all round natural sportsman who loved football when he was younger and played for Burnley Schoolboys. He was always very fit and later took up golf and was also a triathlete. He loved his job and taught himself to play the guitar.
“He was a big character, a bit of a joker who was always making us laugh. He loved to socialise with friends and loved his family.
“We knew his condition had deteriorated but when we got a call on Saturday morning to say he had taken a turn for the worse six of us, his closest friends, booked the first plane we could get and arrived at the hospital on Sunday afternoon. He was in and out of consciousness but he knew we were there and we spent some time with him. Then we left him with Colette and his family.”
They arrived home from their sad journey on Wednesday. “We had been together since school and he was my daughter’s godfather and a great friend. But essentially he was a devoted family man who lived for Colette and his children,” said Mr Ashworth.
The family are hoping to arrange the funeral next week through Alderson and Horan funeral services in Rossendale Road.