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A fond farewell to DRWF Lifetime Member also known as Captain Insulin

A fond farewell to DRWF Lifetime Member also known as Captain Insulin

Memories of Lynwood Frederick Newman – a DRWF volunteer and supporter who died recently.

Published: Mar 30, 2021
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Lee Calladine, DRWF Educational Event Co-ordinator, looks back at years of support and friendship with Lynwood Newman who was a ‘superhero’ supporter of the charity.

DRWF Educational Event Co-ordinator Lee Calladine with Captain Insulin at a Diabetes Wellness Day

The late great Stan Lee, once said of his superhero creations “with great power comes great responsibility”. That quote is never more meaningful than when thinking about Lynwood Newman, sometimes known as our very own superhero Captain Insulin.

Lynwood was more than aware of the power that came with his dual roles within the diabetes arena and the responsibility he had to the many people living with diabetes that he helped to support, educate and inform, and of course the serious commitment he showed in everything he did with us here at DRWF.

I first met Lynwood in 2006 when we were both studying on the Diabetes Care course with The Open University. I remember clearly the particular class that day was focussed on the physiology of beta cell destruction and the difference in diagnosis of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Lynwood and I were sat next to each other and It wasn’t long before we were comparing notes and discussing our own diabetes, him as someone living with type 2 and me with type 1.  

Lynwood (front, centre) joins fellow ramblers with diabetes on the DRWF 'Active with Diabetes' Walking Holiday in the Peak District, 2015

I had only recently begun my role as Event Co-ordinator for DRWF and the conversation naturally turned to that and some excitement about our next event, the ‘Active with Diabetes’ Walking Holiday, which was taking place in the Long Mynd Valley in Shropshire that September. He was hooked, booked his place that evening and the rest as they say is history.

Fifteen years later I find myself writing this memorial and reflecting on a wonderful friendship filled with many adventures where Lynwood travelled with me all over the UK and become our longest serving volunteer and ambassador at so many events.

Lynwood joins Registered Nutritionist and DRWF Editorial Advisory Board member Azmina Govindji for a cooking demonstration at a Diabetes Wellness Event

Representing DRWF as a volunteer

It wasn’t just at educational events Lynwood supported DRWF. He would often don his red DRWF t-shirt and go off with his DRWF banner and literature to do a talk for us, whether that was to a diabetes support group, the fire brigade and police or local companies and schools. Once he even did a talk at a prison to the inmates and staff. On smarter occasions Lynwood would swap the T-shirt for a tuxedo and black tie and be our representative at fundraising events like Pop4Diabetes, where he would often present awards to the children as his superhero alter-ego Captain Insulin.

Lynwood travelled with us all over the country to professional diabetes conferences too and was always willing to talk about his experiences of living with diabetes with healthcare professionals, the general public and other people living with the condition.  In this past year and throughout the Covid-19 pandemic this changed to live panel discussions via video calls. Lynwood was always ready for any challenge.

Lynwood would often travel from Weymouth to our office, first on Hayling Island and more recently to Havant after we moved. There was always an excited buzz about his visits as they always coincided with an imminent activity, fundraiser or event. He would always arrive with a big smile and a roaring laugh, often after telling us an anecdote about his journey there. He never turned up without a big bag of coins that he had collected locally from the newsagent he did a paper round for, the gym where he did Zumba or from donations for his holistic and homeopathy work.

Lynwood thought about us always and for that we will be eternally grateful. Volunteers and fundraisers like Lynwood are integral to the work we do to help us achieve our aims. We couldn’t do it without them

Lynwood was a native of Philadelphia, USA. They call it The City of Brotherly Love and I think that is something he embodied and expressed to everyone he met. The UK would become his home after being stationed here with US Forces. As a keen fan of history and genealogy he actually discovered he had UK connections already, as his great grandmother was from Manchester and had emigrated to New York and married a farm boy from New Jersey. Despite being a committed Anglophile, Lynwood never lost his strong Philly accent.

Type 2 diabetes diagnosis

Lynwood was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes shortly after his 40th birthday in 1989. His mother already had type 2 diabetes and sadly she died from complications associated with it. This profound loss prompted Lynwood to live an active and healthy lifestyle and he committed himself to being fit for the rest of his life and managing his diabetes as best as he could. Being in the military helped him keep that promise to himself. In fact, it was during a joint force exercise in 1984 where Lynwood fell from an icy platform of a command post, somersaulted ten feet, landed badly and suffered an injury that he always maintained was the catalyst for the onset and later diagnosis of his diabetes.

Over the years Lynwood did everything he could to learn about his diabetes and deal with it head on. He took many courses, in particular the Expert Patient Programme for people with chronic illnesses, DESMOND, the Open University Course on Diabetes Care and the Flexible Regimes for Eating and Exercising in Diabetes Optimal Management (FREEDOM) a course at Dorset County Hospital Diabetes Clinic. He also studied Holistic Integrated Medicine and qualified as a practitioner and consultant.

An active and varied life

Lynwood served in the US Air Force Police for 17 years. While stationed in the UK, he met and married his wife Lida, who he leaves with his beloved cat Izzy. He did some work in journalism and radio and television broadcasting, worked as a hospice volunteer and became a fundraiser for several charities including DRWF who he did a tandem Parachute Jump for to mark his 65th birthday, among many other activities.

He was a standard bearer for the Weymouth branches of the Royal Naval and the Merchant Naval Association, Royal Air Force Association and Aden Veterans Association and the Royal Tank Regiment in Bournemouth.  

In recent years Lynwood would face the challenge of merging his diabetes management with cancer treatment after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer of blood and bone marrow) something he faced head-on like he did with everything else. During his multiple hospital stays, stem cell treatment and transplant and chemotherapy he still stayed active and did his best to contribute to the charities he supported, including DRWF and Myeloma UK.

Lee and Lynwood with Gail Daruvala and Ana Montesinos on the 'Active with Diabetes' Walking Holiday in The Lake District before they boarded the boat across to begin that day's hike to Orrest Head

I have so many personal memories of my time with Lynwood. His support setting up and running all the educational Diabetes Wellness Days and Weekends was amazing and he must have attended more than 25 educational events with us. He also joined us on most of our walking events with Ramblers where we were lucky enough to hike through some of the most beautiful places in the UK. The long drives to and from these locations was always made easier with his company and we would talk for hours about every subject under the sun.

Other fun memories include skydiving together, rescuing him from a public toilet he got locked in (that’s another story), dressing up in medieval costumes for a Tudor feast, sailing across Windermere, walking around a St Ives churchyard at midnight on a ghost tour with a Cornish fisherman, sharing hot soup and blankets drenched and freezing after getting caught in a storm while hiking in Devon, doing cooking demonstrations were just a few of our adventures together.

There is so much more to say about Lynwood, and it would be impossible to fit it all in to this one article. He meant so much to us all, so here are some memories and words from all of Lynwood’s friends and colleagues here at DRWF…

Sarah Tutton, DRWF Chief Executive: "Lynwood was proud to join the family of DRWF way back in 2006. He became a much-loved member of our team, an amazing advocate and ambassador of the charity, eager to join in any activity that offered friendship and support to people with diabetes. I often wondered over the years how he maintained such huge optimism about life, and I think it was partly because of the knowledge that he was making a difference to others. He gave freely and generously to all and we will miss him greatly. Goodnight and God Bless dear Lynwood."

Steve Lille, Office Manager: "Lynwood was exactly what he appeared to be right from the very first time I met him, energetic and the most willing to help person I think I have ever met!  His smile was infectious, and he always found a reason to laugh, whatever the circumstances.  He needed no excuse to don the outfit of his alter-ego Captain Insulin - I doubt we could have stopped him if we had wanted to.  My abiding memory is of a man who took dad jokes to a whole new level, but you had to laugh at them anyway."

Sarah Brown, Research Administrator: "Lynwood was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. Always happy, smiling, laughing and joking, I don’t think I ever saw him any different. The one thing I will never forget though was at our 15th Anniversary Ball at the Dockyard. Seeing him on the dancefloor, busting some moves was a sight to behold! He could have given anyone half his age a run for their money! James Brown - eat your heart out! He had a heart of gold and no event will be the same without him."

Debra Peett, Network Administrator: "My earliest memories of Lynwood were seeing photos of him taking part in our Walking Holidays with the biggest smile on his face and that is how I will always remember him.  He was the “smileyest” person I have ever met, and he brought joy to everyone whose lives were touched by him. It was an honour to have worked alongside him at the Wellness Days and when he joined us in the office to count out leaflets."

Richie Troughton, Publishing Editor: "I have worked closely with Lynwood throughout my time at DRWF as he served as a lay member on our Editorial Advisory Board. Lynwood always went beyond the call, giving his perspective as someone living with diabetes, to ensure our content met the needs of our audience. Lynwood’s passion and encouragement for the work of DRWF was infectious and helped us see the value of the work we do. I met Lynwood many times over the years, from Diabetes Wellness educational events to occasional visits to the office.

"Lynwood was a larger-than-life character and always warm and welcoming to all he met. I will miss our regular chats and remember his positivity, even in the adversity of recent times, he remained cool and calm about the future – living every day like it could be his last. I know there were still things he was looking forward to, though remain upbeat in the knowledge that he will have moved on with no regrets."

Jenny Diment, Office Administrator: "Having known Lynwood for many years, my lasting memory of him would be his infectious laugh. He would laugh at literally everything and even when I wasn’t sure what he was laughing about, I went along with it! At the Wellness Weekend we held at Elvetham Hall in Hampshire, I remember going on a history tour of the old hotel and even though Lynwood was not in my group, I could still hear him laughing somewhere! It was an honour to have known and worked with Lynwood over the years and what an inspiration he was."

Karen Scott, Community Fundraiser: "I met Lynwood for the first time at volunteer's afternoon tea we held. I had only just started at the charity and this unknown man with a strong American accent comes over to me with his mask pulled on over his specs and said, "Hi,  I'm Lynwood". We had a long chat about all sorts of stuff, but all the while I was wondering why he was wearing that outfit. I came to the conclusion that he was a really nice bloke who obviously loves to dress up. I’m pleased to have had the opportunity just recently to actually tell him how much he meant to me and how his positivity rubbed off. I have learned that it's important to do this when given the chance, so you don't have any regrets. A true gent who will be sadly missed by all those who knew him."

A Diabetes Wellness News comic strip captured the stramash between Captain Insulin and Big Cig

Darren Tipper, Digital Marketing Manager: "I remember well the first time I met Lynwood. I had very recently started working with DRWF and someone announced, “Lynwood's coming in,” and there was immediately an exited buzz in the office. I didn’t know who Lynwood was then, but I could tell he must be popular by everyone's reaction to the news. In fact, I took it to mean a woman named Lyn Wood was on her way, so I was a bit confused at first when he turned up, welcomed by lots of enthusiasm and hugs. 

"I recall my first event with Lynwood, I was taking photos that day, and we had a great time enacting a battle between Lynwood as Captain Insulin and a seven-foot-tall cigarette! It was a lot of fun. I loved having Lynwood at our events, as whenever I pointed the camera in his direction he’d already be laughing and smiling and making those he was with laugh and smile too, making for wonderful natural feelgood photos.  I hope this is how we will all remember him."

Carly Jackson-Smith, PA to Chief Executive: "I have never come across anyone that exudes happiness and positivity as Lynwood did – both attributes just naturally radiated from him. His smile was infectious, and he had this way of just making you feel upbeat and hopeful. Lynwood seemed such a kind, generous and caring person and it is a real shame that I didn’t have the privilege to get to know him better."

Sue Dixon, PA to the Chief Executive (Retired): "Lynwood had a gift for making people feel special - he was a giver. Everyone at DRWF will miss his energy, his enthusiasm, his commitment, his kindness, his empathy and most of all - they will miss him. Rest in Peace Lynwood."

Claire Levy, PR and Communications: "Lynwood was a force of nature, an incredible individual full of passion and determination to be the best person he could be. He had a lovely sense of humour and wanted to make everyone around him happy. An amazing volunteer who would travel any distance to support the work of the charity. He will be sorely missed by us all at DRWF."

Tim Green, Head of Community Fundraising: "I first met Lynwood at an event in Bournemouth of which he attended annually. The event was a dinner dance supporting Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation. Amongst the many black ties in the room would be one man wearing a completely different attire. Lynwood would be proudly wearing his ‘Captain Insulin’ costume without fail every year. This was something he did to lift the spirits of many children living with diabetes. He was popular, funny and had the most infectious smile. His many acts of kindness epitomised the man he was. He was strong and brave – yet kind and gentle and lived every day to its fullest. He was the perfect role model to work alongside, and he will be sadly missed by me, and everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. Goodnight Captain."

Chris and Brian Edwards, DRWF Volunteers and Ambassadors: "I was shocked to hear that our friend Lynwood had passed away. He will be sorely missed. We met him several years ago at a DRWF residential event and became firm friends. My most endearing memory is when he wore the 'Captain Insulin' suit for the first time at a Wellness day in 2016. From then on, he wore it at every opportunity, including a posh Ball we attended in Bournemouth!

"Lynwood was always larger than life. In 2015 we were invited to join some of the DRWF staff and volunteers for two-day residential get-together in Bath, staying at a lovely house owned by English Heritage, and Brian and Lynwood spent the whole-time making schoolboy jokes, and ridiculous puns. Although in the past few years he suffered from ill health, he was still the life and soul of the party, and always ready to volunteer when possible.

"We will miss you Lynwood."

Hayley Hakansson, DRWF Volunteer and Ambassador, Hartlepool Diabetes Support Group: "I have known Lynwood for several years, but it feels like I have known him all my life. We met at DRWF’s south event in 2017 after travelling down from Hartlepool the day before to help set up, which is when we were introduced to Lynwood by Lee. After a busy day, we decided to pop to the hotel pub for some dinner and it was lovely. Lynwood and that smile wow. We chatted and had a lovely evening.  The next day Lynwood became Captain Insulin. He was so full of energy and fun. Keeping everyone’s spirits up and showing everyone round the hotel where lectures where happening.  He sat with us at lunchtime and then at the end of the day helping clear everything up. 

"We have kept in touch through the work of DRWF and most recently we did a zoom meeting together for DRWF at Diabetes Professional Care (my first one too) and was lovely to see and hear Lynwood telling everyone about how he has coped during lockdown with Diabetes. And that smile. Always smiling. His spirit and caring, friendly nature will be missed by everyone who knew him. RIP Lynwood our diabuddy."

Lionel Curtis and Pauline Mathers, DRWF Volunteers and Ambassadors, Hull and District Diabetes Support Group: "How can we describe the man, the legend Lynwood Newman aka Captain Insulin?

"Although we didn’t have the time get to know him enough, he left for all of us his presence, his humble humanity and above all, his all- over personality which makes us all so much in his debt. He touched the hearts and minds of so many.

"We are so proud to call him a friend.

"Lynwood didn’t receive his wings in heaven, he made them here on earth!"

Helen Bailey, Lay member of the DRWF Editorial Advisory Board: "DRWF will not be the same without Captain Insulin and the huge personality of Lynwood."

Lynwood Newman as his superhero alter ego Captain Insulin

So, there we have it. What says it better than those lovely words from our team. It just leaves it for me to add, that I consider it a blessing and an honour to have called Lynwood my friend and to have had him in my life. He truly was one of the greatest people I have ever met, a true hero in every sense of the word. For the past 15 years he has been a huge part of DRWF's journey. He will be missed more than words can say and will leave an irreplaceable hole in our team.

Things will never be the same without him, but he will always be part of our history and family. I can’t imagine doing one of our events without Lynwood there, eagerly waiting with his clipboard, smiling face and desire to help. It’s going to be difficult, but we will honour him always, and his memory will inspire us in everything we do.  I just know the Captain and Lynwood will be there with us every step of the way.

In addition to being a DRWF Lifetime Member and volunteer, Lynwood also supported the charity in his role as a lay member on the DRWF Editorial Advisory Board, proof reading copy right up to the March 2021 edition
The April issue of the newsletter is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend Lynwood Newman R.I.P.
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