A POPULAR postman whose ‘family were his life’ died suddenly in the snow just days before his third grandchild was due to be born.
John Bircham, 57, who had been delivering mail in and around his home town of Dulverton for 25 years, died on Saturday afternoon while trying to complete his rounds in the snow.
He called farmer Paul Guscott from Venn Farm at lunchtime to ask for help while trying to negotiate the remote Hawkwell Lane between Dulverton and East Anstey.
Mr Guscott said: “John phoned me because his van had slid off the road and he was worried it would fall into the ditch.
“I went up there and saw him, we were talking about what we were going to do, and then the next thing I knew, he was on the floor. I called 999 and we did what we could to resuscitate him but, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
“He was a really nice chap and a very good community postman. He was very well respected.”
Despite the efforts of co-responders, paramedics and Devon Air Ambulance medics, Mr Bircham died at the scene and it is believed the cause of death was heart-related.
He leaves behind wife Wendy, sons Jamie and Wayne, and two grandchildren – Lewis, five, and Eveylyn, three.
Wayne said: “He was so good with the grandchildren – he loved them to bits. He loved us all so much. It’s sad that he won’t meet our next baby, who’s due on February 4.
“He was very, very popular and loved organising trips with a big group of friends. I don’t know how he did it but he made time for everyone.
“His death came out of the blue, so the family has been in complete shock, but we want to remember the good times.
“Because we all lived so close, I saw him pretty much every day of my life, so I have been very lucky. He was an amazing man.”
Mr Bircham was also a keen sportsman and played football at Dulverton and Bampton for more than 20 years.
Dulverton Town Football Club chairman and Mr Bircham’s brother-in-law, Brian Edworthy, said: “He used to score lots of goals in his playing days and was very athletic – he was the fastest thing on two legs.
“His family were his life, he absolutely adored his grandchildren. He used to travel the breadth of the country to watch his sons play football – if I had a pound for every mile he covered, I could retire now.”
Royal Mail delivery and collection manager Ian Frankum described Mr Bircham as ‘a valued member of staff’.
He said: “He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and our deepest sympathy goes to his family and friends at this sad time.”
Mr Bircham’s funeral is at All Saints Church in Dulverton on Friday, February 1 at 3pm.