Family pays touching tribute to father-of-four James Bartell after Woolmer Green crash tragedy
- Credit: Archant
The family of a former Stevenage schoolboy and devoted father-of-four who died in a crash near Woolmer Green say he was a “gentle giant with a heart of gold”.
James Bartell, who attended The Leys Primary School and the Thomas Alleyne Academy growing up, was travelling in a Ford KA when it collided with a tree on Heath Road just before 5pm on Sunday. Sadly James, 29, died at the scene.
He leaves his partner Anna, daughter Freya, son Joey, stepsons Mason and Logan, mum Christine, dad Steve, sister Louise, step mum Jill, stepbrother Alex, stepsister Sophie and in-laws Joe and Maureen.
James, who had been living in Welwyn Garden City, was born at Barnet Hospital on November 28, 1987, 16 months after his older sister Louise.
For the first nine years of his life James grew up in Borehamwood, before moving to Stevenage at school age.
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Sister Louise Mason, 31, said she and her brother were very close growing up, and their bond continued into adulthood.
She said: “Mum and dad told us that if I got a sweet or a toy, I would always ask where James’ was too. Of course, we fought like cat and dog like all siblings do but we looked out for each other.”
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James entered the world of work at the age of 17, turning his hand to several different jobs including retail, bin collection and courier driving.
He later worked at Alliance Healthcare in Letchworth, before becoming a delivery courier with AO.com – with bosses recognising his hard work ethic and determination.
Dad Steve, 58, said: “He was absolutely chuffed to bits and it had given him a boost. He was really excited about his prospects and he was looking forward to being trained up to install the appliances he was delivering.
“They were going to invest in him and I was really proud.”
James met partner Anna Kelly online six years ago and she says they instantly clicked.
“He came to see me one day a few weeks after we started talking and he never went home again,” said the 32-year-old.
Anna has sons Mason, 12, and Logan, 10, from a previous relationship. The couple went on to have daughter Freya, who will be four next month, and three-year-old son Joey, and James loved being a dad.
“He was a child at heart,” said Anna.
“At family gatherings he would be the one with the children, playing games with them. Freya and Joey idolised him, and they always will.”
James had a passion for fitness and healthy eating and often worked out at the Powerhouse Gym in Hitchin before moving to Norton Gym in WGC.
Anna said: “His nickname was ‘Guns’ because of the size of his upper arms – they would burst out of his T-shirt! I remember having to cook him chicken, broccoli and green beans all the time to make sure he had the right balance of protein and carbs.”
But despite his dedication to healthy eating, sister Louise said he still had a sweet tooth.
“He could finish a whole packet of biscuits with just one cup of tea!” she said.
Mum Christine, 52, says James had a bottomless stomach and was known for his ability to eat large quantities of food.
She said: “I remember when he went to Cuffley Camp on a school trip, he came home pleased as punch and said he’d had a great time. I was sorting through his bag that he had brought home when I came across a certificate that said ‘James Bartell – Human Dustbin Award’.
“Every night at dinner, he would sit at the end of the long table and as everyone’s leftovers were passed down to the bin, he would intercept them and finish them off. He cleared the lot!”
James’ athletic ability certainly flourished as he grew older, but he never did take an interest in football or rugby – dad Steve’s passions.
The grandfather-of-four and step-grandfather to three recalls a memory from when his son tried out for the Borehamwood FC mini league.
He said: “The club were running an open day and said you could take your children along to have a go, so James and I went down. He was so incredible, tearing down the pitch, and he quickly scored the first goal.
“When everyone asked who he was I said: ‘That’s my boy!’ but after half time, James scored another goal – in the opposition’s net. He hadn’t realised you changed goals half way through!”
James’ father-in-law Joe Kelly says that the 29-year-old’s muscular frame and 6ft 2in height often gave people the impression he “wasn’t to be messed with” but he says that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
“He was a gentle giant,” said Joe, 56.
Since James’ passing, the family have been overwhelmed with messages of condolence from the many people who knew him, both in his younger days and in more recent years.
Mum-of-four Anna said: “It just shows you how much of an impact he had on people. We’ve been getting messages from people we’ve never even met.
“He was the nicest person I’ve ever met. He was the most loyal friend and he would be there to support you 100 per cent all the way through. He had a heart of gold.”