London Zoo pays tribute to longest serving volunteer after death from COVID-19 in Ilford

Tributes were today paid to London Zoo’s longest serving volunteer who died with COVID-19.

George Fitt, 91, had worked at the world famous zoo since 1947 and welcomed visitors to the Gorilla Kingdom and Tiger Territory.

He continued helping out at the tourist attraction well into his 80s and was then a frequent visitor. He moved into a care home in Ilford almost two years ago.

Mr Fitt died in King George Hospital, Ilford, on April 20 after catching coronavirus.

His niece Gena Dye, 62, said: “George was a kind and gentle man and an amazing uncle. He was a real Londoner who absolutely loved animals. He used to take massive laundry bags with fruits and vegetables down there four times a week whatever the weather. He was just such a nice happy soul and nothing got him down.”

A bench dedicated to Mr Fitt’s late wife Sheila was put up in the zoo several years ago so he could visit it every time he volunteered. They had met as teenagers at a dance when she was the girlfriend of singer Matt Monro.

London Zoo is now organising for Mr Fitt’s name to be added to the bench in the Casson building.

The zoo’s hoofstock team leader Tracey Lee said: “George was a lovely gentleman with a passion for the great outdoors and the animal kingdom.

“He spoke of when his first clapped eyes on Sheila and it was love at first sight. Whilst Matt Monro was singing George would sidle up beside Sheila and flirt outrageously, buying her drinks and dancing with her.

“When Matt went to the USA to sing with Frank Sinatra, George saw his opportunity and the rest as they say is history.

“They shared a love of fauna and flora and animals. When his beloved wife passed away his world tumbled down around him. The only place he felt close to her was in our zoos.

“He would sit on the bench before the zoo opened chattering away to Sheila, watering her plants. Many of us would shed a tear whilst mucking out, watching George. He would lay flowers every Sunday on her bench.”

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter