Published: 06:00, 09 September 2021
| Updated: 09:21, 10 September 2021
The death of a popular barman who tragically took his own life on a bridge has torn a hole through Herne Bay, family members say.
Lee Harlow died last month, having battled depression since the age of seven.
Tributes have poured in for the much-loved 32-year-old, who was best-known for working behind the bar in the town’s Diver’s Arms, Druid’s Head and the Prince of Wales pubs.
His mother, Annie Harlow, told KentOnline: “Everybody is absolutely devastated.
“He was gentle, kind, selfless and beautiful. Everybody knew him in Herne Bay, and he was there for everybody.
“He was a showman behind the bar. If there was music on, he’d be dancing – and people loved that. He wasn’t the boring barman.
“He made people happy and was an entertainer, although he was broken inside.”
Raised in Wilmington, Lee attended Hextable Secondary School in Swanley, where he blossomed as a dancer.
Annie says he helped to secure lottery funding for the school through his performing, and was even talent-spotted by Greenwich dance agency.
It was not until 2005 that the family moved to Herne Bay, and Lee started to ply his trade as a bartender.
Close friend Matt Bolton says the pub favourite was much loved by regulars.
“Some people will remember the times he was playing pool with the customers,” he explained.
“There were other times when it was a quiet evening and they were upset and needed someone to talk to – and Lee had time for everyone.
“People have so many stories about Lee. It confirms what we knew of him – he was the link between so many people.”
However, Lee began wrestling with depression when he was a child.
He had sought help on a number of occasions from services like Durham House in Canterbury.
But Annie woke up on August 24 to find police at her front door, bearing the devastating news of her son’s death.
“We have lost everything,” the mum of two continued.
“People have come forward to say ‘he helped me get through suicidal thoughts’.
“There are lots of these stories that I never knew anything about.”
Lee was pronounced dead at the scene, but his death is not being treated as suspicious.
Mrs Harlow recalled: “On the day he died, the pubs shut. They had lock-ins. There were so many tears.
“Because he was so troubled inside, if there was anybody going through some trouble, he had empathy because he knew that pain.
“He took on such a lot when he was crumbling inside himself.
“Where he saved a lot of people, unfortunately his cry for help failed. I don’t think he really wanted to die.”
Lee is survived by his brother Terry, half-sister Niamh, mum Annie and dad Stuart.
"He made people happy and was an entertainer, although he was broken inside..."
His funeral will take place at St Martin’s Church in Herne on Wednesday, September 15.
Beforehand a cortège, including a horse-drawn hearse, will make its way from the family home in Bullockstone Road at noon through to the centre of town.
The 2pm service will be open for anyone to pay their respects.
“We’re stopping at the bridge for everyone to pay their respects there,” Mrs Harlow said.
“We’ll also stop at the Druid’s Head in High Street for 10 minutes and then go to the church in Herne.”
Flowers can be sent to the Co-op Funeralcare in Sea Street up until 10am on Wednesday.
Donations from the ceremony will be given to Canterbury homelessness charity Catching Lives.