Yesterday evening, Lisa Acton – co founder, with her husband John Burke, of the Irish FreeFrom Food Awards – finally lost a long and heroic battle with cancer.
To my regret I had only met her a few times. A couple of years ago when John brought the whole family to a FreeFrom Food Awards presentation in London and then briefly, just before lockdown in March, when I squeezed in a trip to Dublin to help judge the Irish awards. At this point she had already been through endless courses of horrible chemotherapy not to mention endless surgery. When I got to Dublin she was still in hospital so I could not believe it when, next day, I arrived to do my judging and there she was in the kitchen, small bustling and cheery as ever, preparing samples for the judges to taste.
Always upbeat and positive she defied the cancer that was consuming her for years longer than the most optimistic predictions. Again and again she seemed to have turned a corner – only for it to return, each time more aggressively than before. A terrible roller coaster of hope and black disappointment for all the family.
The awards will I am sure continue to go from strength to strength – John will ensure that they do that in her memory if nothing else. For now all our hearts go out to John, John Junior and the Burkes’ two daughters. For all that they knew, by the end, that Lisa was not going to make it, that does not make losing her one tiny jot easier.
As Emma Clarke Conway, who runs the awards with the Johns, said: ‘She was a wonderful wise, funny and clever woman’. So, so sad to lose her.