Bereaved landlady of Portsmouth pub The Old Oyster House vows to keep beloved pub open thanks to huge community donation
A LANDLADY left bereaved after the sudden death of her husband has vowed to reopen their pub, with the community raising thousands to support the beloved local.
Paul Russell, landlord of the Old Oyster House in Locksway Road since 2004, died after suffering heart failure while driving in Shirley Avenue on Saturday, April 17.
With the incident taking place just a few streets from the couple's home in the Milton pub, Paul's wife was notified and rushed to the scene as paramedics desperately worked to save the 58-year-old’s life.
Cath said: ‘I managed to get to him and it was horrible - it was the worst thing I have seen in my life.
‘They tried so hard to bring him back.’
The devastating blow meant the landlady has had to close the pub just a week after celebrating reopening, with bills mounting as she takes the time to organise Paul’s funeral.
But now the community has raised more than £2,000 to keep the beloved pub and landlady in business.
Family friend Ally Brooker organised the fundraiser to support Cath in secret, knowing the financial pressure her friend is under.
Ally said: ‘No one wants to see the pub go, traditional pubs are dying out, and Cath needed that money.’
Cath added: ‘It's my rent, my gas, my electric - I pay £648 a week rent.’
More than 70 friends and pub regulars have raised £2,260 to help support the pub.
And Cath has vowed to keep running the pub - where she and Paul met - as she has too many happy memories to let it go.
She said: ‘We met in the pub in 1999 when I was 28, and we took over the lease in 2004 - Paul bought me the lease of the pub as a wedding present.
‘He grew up around here, he's a local boy - I think he was drinking in here before he was allowed.
‘He was my best friend, my soul mate. He was always there for me - he always protected me when people got out of hand at the pub.
‘This last lockdown we had the best time ever. It was so nice not to spend all our time working - I’m so glad we had that time together.’
Paul was well-known to the community not just as landlord, but also through his involvement in pub darts and pool competitions, local Lambretta scooter clubs, and his previous job as a HGV driver with his ‘big blue’ DAF lorry, according to Cath.
The 49-year-old has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of tributes and support from the community - with flowers left at the pub, hundreds of messages on social media, and several scooter clubs planning to accompany his funeral procession as it heads off from pub.
She said: ‘I’m absolutely floored by it. All the tributes, and flowers, and cards. It’s incredible.’
Paul is survived by Cath and the couple’s four adult children.
A procession to Paul's funeral service will leave the Old Oyster House at 1.15pm on May 11.
A date for The Old Oyster House’s reopening is to be confirmed.