TRIBUTES have been paid to a “kind and sympathetic” former charity chief who has died at the age of 82 following a rare illness.

John Duell died following a battle with Demyelinating Polyneuropathy, a rare neurological condition which targets the body’s nerves.

Before his retirement, John had been a renowned architect in Colchester, as a partner at Hurley Porte and Duell, in North Hill.

He was also a selfless charity volunteer with Phoenix Homes Colchester, which provides supported accommodation to those with mental health, homelessness and substance misuse issues, for more than two decades.

Charity spokesman Robin Matthews said: “It was in 1984 John joined Phoenix and ten years later took on the role of treasurer, followed by five years as chairman.

“In 2007 John retired from his position in Phoenix but despite being dogged by ill health, together with his wife, Trish, continued to support the charity, attending most annual general meetings and other events. John will be fondly remembered for his warmth, integrity and humanitarian qualities.”

American John was born in Illinois in February in 1938.

After securing his architectural degree at Illinois State University he decided to explore the world and moved to Europe.

It was in London in 1966 he met his beloved wife, Trish, and seven months later they married.

During his time in the capital he also met friend Richard Theakston, and together they won a prestigious national architecture design competition.

John and Trish set down their roots in Braiswick, Colchester, in 1976, raising daughters Emily and Rebecca in the town.

During his time at Phoenix, John helped the pioneering charity expand into a residential rehabilitation project for people recovering from alcohol dependency - called the 9 Oxford Road Alcohol Project.

His charity colleagues described him as a kind and sympathetic man who made a “significant contribution to serving others”.

John retired from his position with the charity in 2007 due to health issues.

He will be much missed by Trish, Emily, Rebecca and grandchildren Amy, Indi, Jude and Laura.

A private funeral service is being held. Donations to Phoenix Homes Colchester are welcome.