Published: 10:00, 09 May 2014
A Canterbury family have been left heartbroken by the sudden death of a father-of-two who collapsed at work just hours after dropping his children at school.
Marlowe Theatre chef Stephen Belsey suffered a brain haemorrhage and died the next day. He was just 42.
The avid music and sports fan, of Greenhouse Lane, leaves his wife Rebecca, 36, son Ryan, nine, and six-year-old daughter Sadie.
His day had started like every other last Monday, with him dropping the children at school before walking to the Marlowe, where he had worked for almost three years.
But at just after 3pm, while she was on the school run, Mrs Belsey received a phone call from her husband's boss to say he had been taken ill.
She said: "I thought he had just passed out. The fact he'd been taken to Kent and Canterbury Hospital made me think it couldn't have been that serious.
"I later found out that's the furthest they could get him. A passing nurse gave him CPR at the Marlowe and paramedics took him to the nearest hospital."
Alarm bells started to ring when she arrived at K&C to find Stephen's mother and sister already there and a police officer waiting.
She added: "I thought that was strange. We were then taken into a relatives' room, where we were told he was very ill. They thought he'd had a seizure and he was taken to intensive care.
"Then we were told he was going to die. It was just unbelievable. He'd left for work as normal that morning. We finally got to see him, and he was wired up to everything. Me and his mum stayed with him all night."
Doctors told Mrs Belsey her husband had suffered an aneurysm and a stroke, which had led to a bleed on the brain, and that nothing could be done.
His life support machine was turned off at 4.30pm the following day and he died 15 minutes later. His devastated wife then faced the agonising prospect of breaking the news to their children.
She said: "I just wanted to get home to my babies. I told them I couldn't bring daddy home, and that he had gone to heaven.
"That was the hardest thing. We're taking it a day at a time, but the nights are the hardest. They just sob and all I can do is hold them.
"Outside everything just carries on, while our world has been well and truly shattered. The first night, Sadie said 'my heart has been broken into a thousand pieces'.
"Ryan is more of a closed book, like his father. Even our 12-year-old golden retriever, Duke, is pining for him."
Mrs Belsey has also found heart-wrenching notes hidden around her house from Sadie to her father, telling him how much she misses him.
The care home assistant said there was no indication anything was wrong with her husband, other than an ache in his upper jaw that was dismissed as dental pain.
In a tragic twist, his father had also died of a stroke at the age of 46, on his sister Michelle's 16th birthday. Mr Belsey later gave her away at her wedding.
Mrs Belsey said: "He was about 22 when he lost his father, and it affected him deeply. I'm now considering getting my children checked in case it's hereditary."
As well as his wife and children, Mr Belsey leaves behind his best friend Nahim Youseuf, mother, nan, sister, brother and five nieces and nephews.
Mr Belsey grew up in Canterbury, attending Parkside Primary School and Chaucer Technology School before going to Canterbury College for his chef training.
He went on to work in kitchens at Ye Olde Beverlie and the Millers Arms, before joining the new Marlowe when it opened.
He and Rebecca met 14 years ago, through Stephen's mother, Janette, who worked with Mrs Belsey while she was studying nursing at Canterbury Christ Church.
They married seven years later, and lived in Wife of Bath Hill before moving to Greenhouse Lane two years ago.
In the aftermath of his death, Mr Belsey's Facebook page has been flooded with tributes from friends and former colleagues.
But his wife said first and foremost he was a devoted family man, adding: "All he wanted to do was provide for his family, which he did."
Described as a keen gardener, sports fan and film and music lover, Mr Belsey enjoyed watching cricket and Formula One with Ryan.
Mrs Belsey said: "He was quiet, but he had a very funny side to him. His colleagues have said he was the heart and soul of the kitchen at the Marlowe.
"And they said he always talked about Ryan and Sadie. He was such a proud dad, who would do anything for his children. He loved his family very much."
Marlowe Theatre director Mark Everett said: "Stephen's death came as a great shock to us all, in particular to those who worked closely with him.
"He was a conscientious and valued member of the team, who worked very hard to help develop and build the reputation of The Green Room.
"Several colleagues were directly involved in assisting Stephen when he collapsed here and I would like to thank them for their efforts.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to publicly send our condolences to Stephen's family."
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