Cafe brother’s tribute one year on

Lee Robinson from Rita's Cafe, Morecambe, with a photo of his late brother Steve.
Lee Robinson from Rita's Cafe, Morecambe, with a photo of his late brother Steve.

Rita’s Cafe looks much the same as it always did.

The popular seafront diner bustles with life. Customers chatter while enjoying their lunch, and staff mill around taking orders while serving plates of sausage and chips.

But something, or rather someone, is missing.

And for cafe boss Lee Robinson, this means things will never be the same.

Tomorrow (January 23), is exactly a year since Lee’s brother Steve Weatherhead died of a brain tumour at the age of 54.

Steve and Lee used to work in Rita’s together. They were a double act, bouncing off each other with rapid-fire jokes, each the butt of each other’s humour as they served with a smile – the Morecambe and Wise of the cafe world.

Now Lee dedicates his life to keeping Steve’s business, his pride and joy, exactly the way he liked it.

But he admits there is a huge hole which can never be filled.

“It’s still hard to believe at times,” says Lee.

“Sometimes when I’m working, it feels like my right arm has gone. I can’t have the same banter I used to have because Steve’s not here.

“Then again, he is still here really.”

Lee gestures to a framed photo of Steve on the cafe wall, taking pride of place amongst the pictures of footballers from the brothers’ beloved Manchester United.

“It’s coming to Jamaica with me when I get married in September,” says Lee.

“I’ve booked my honeymoon there, at the same hotel where Steve went when he got married. He always wanted to go back. I’m going to put his photo under the same tree on the beach where we had a couple of beers and drink a toast to him.”

Lee, 43, has even written a poem dedicated to his big brother, who battled his illness with courage and dignity through several operations and over 30 courses of chemotherapy.

In the last year of his life, Steve tirelessly raised money for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation, a cancer charity based at Preston Royal Hospital where he was treated.

Lee and his family have continued where Steve left off, raising £4,437 in 2012.

Lee himself did a sponsored diet, shedding two stones, while Steve’s cousin Jane held a Manchester United themed charity night in his name, where Emmerdale star Tony Audenshaw (Bob Hope) was a special guest.

“The fundraising is still going on,” says Lee.

“We’re trying to set up a pool tournament, get a trophy with Steve’s name on and run that each year in his memory and we’re doing a staff calendar.

“All the customers have been amazing. One lady held a tea party and came in with a cheque. Two customers of ours sold a TV and raised £50.”

It has been the hardest of years for Lee. But he has drawn inspiration from Steve’s positive outlook on life and believes better times are on the horizon thanks to his fiancee Jo.

The couple will wed on September 15 and Lee says he knows his big brother will be watching over them as they begin their new life together.

“Jo is totally amazing and Steve would totally approve of her,” he says.

“She has put the smile back on my face.”