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‘MND didn’t take his sense of humour’: Wife’s tribute to “mischievous” Montrose Celtic Supporters’ Club founder Steven Pert

Formerly known as Steven Whitworth, the 60-year-old died suddenly after courageously battling motor neurone disease.

Celtic superfan and MND warrior Steven Pert of Montrose.
Celtic superfan and MND warrior Steven Pert of Montrose.

The wife of Montrose Celtic Suppporters’ Club founder Steven Pert said she is heart sore following the sudden death of her husband age 60.

Steven, who worked for Network Rail, suffered from motor neurone disease but never lost his keen sense of humour, love of football or devotion to his loved ones.

As his family prepare for his funeral on July 4, we look back on his life and courageous battle with MND.

Montrose all his days

Steven Dean Pert, who until recently was best known as Steven Whitworth, was born in Montrose on April 9 1964. His father Billy worked as a bricklayer (journeyman) and his mother, Hannah, looked after Steven and his older sister Angela, at home.

While the children were still small Hannah and Billy separated.

Steven, right and his older sister Angela, as children.

Billy relocated to Inverness, remarried and had three more daughters.

Hannah also remarried Pat Whitworth and together they also had a daughter.

Hannah changed her older children’s names to Whitworth and the family of five continued to live in Montrose.

A ‘loveable rogue’ at school

Steven started his education at North Links Primary then moved to Lochside when the former school closed. From there he attended Montrose Academy.

Described as a “loveable rogue”, he joked over the years that the school gave him a glowing reference “then walked him to the door” when it was time to leave school at 16 for a job in the Cornerhouse Hotel.

A young Steven Pert – then known as Whitworth – during his school days.

He didn’t leave everything connected to school behind, however. Steven’s love of sports, especially football and rugby would stay with him for the rest of his life, as would childhood sweetheart Yvonne Allan.

Young, but enduring, love

Meeting as 12-year-olds in their first senior form class, the pair dated on and off throughout secondary school.

At 17 the couple celebrated the birth of their first son John but remained living at home with their respective families. Steven moved from hotel work to being employed by the Chivers and Sons Canning Factory, and at 18 a win on a lottery scratch card gave Steven the means to propose to the love of his life.

Wedding day joy of Steven and Yvonne Pert.

That same year Steven reconnected with dad, after many years of being all but estranged.

Two years later, on September 14 1984, he and Yvonne tied the knot in Montrose, just months after Steven started working as a signaller for Network Rail.

The young couple built a new life together in Craigo. Two more sons followed with Paul coming along in December 1985 and Sean in February of 1988.

‘Celtic daft’ to the core

A lifelong Celtic fan Steven enjoyed sharing his passion with his family. As well as taking the boys to games growing up, Yvonne very much became his “partner in crime” and together they travelled the world watching “The Hoops”.

The Pert family from Montrose.

“It was a case of, ‘if you can’t beat him, join him,'” laughed Yvonne. “I’m very thankful now for all the incredible memories we have shared together.”

Realising he wasn’t alone in supporting the Glasgow club Steven also became a founding member of Montrose Celtic Supporters’ Club, who paid tribute to the popular member. 

Steven at work in the signal house of Montrose South, early in his career.

“Steven was all about football, family and his job, though not always in that order,” added Yvonne, who also now works for Network Rail.

Emerging health worries

In the summer of 2020, during the pandemic, Steven started feeling unwell.

“It was a lot of really unspecific symptoms,” said Yvonne. “He would go out for a walk and just didn’t feel right, and described his foot as being a bit floppy. We pushed for tests but it was during Covid when things were limited. Our doctor told us to go private,” said Yvonne.

Family man Steven Pert, with wife Yvonne with their grandchildren.

The couple saw an independent neurologist and then were eventually referred back to NHS Tayside.

Around the same time Steven’s father Billy passed away.

Life-changing diagnosis

As his only son a decision was made for Steven, Yvonne, their boys and partners and grandchildren to change their surname from Whitworth back to Pert, in honour of Billy.

At the turn of the new year, January 5 2022, they were given the devastating diagnosis of motor neurone disease (MND).

“We have said ‘we’ since day one because a diagnosis like that doesn’t just affect one person. The whole family journeys with MND.

Steven Pert, formerly Steven Whitworth.

“But for Steven it was devastating.

“We had Googled symptoms but I don’t think we really wanted to believe it. And honestly doctors initially believed he would have been much worse off had it been MND. But that’s exactly what it was.”

Hard to come to terms with

With memories of ice bucket challenges fresh in their minds the reality of a life-shortening, degenerative disease with no cure difficult to come to terms with.

“Steven’s first thought was us. He kept asking how me and the boys were going to cope,” Yvonne explained. “Doddie Weir’s death hit him really hard too. Doddie was a man like Steven. Sporty, a man’s man… and his symptoms started similarly.”

Relying on breathing aids, Steven Pert who suffered from MND.

Unlike Doddie Steven retained the ability to speak but over the last 18 months was entirely reliant on a CPAC machine to aid his breathing.

He couldn’t sleep lying down and though he was still able to eat he also a feeding tube fitted, and needed walking sticks to aid his mobility.

There’s comfort amidst the sadness

“We are very grateful that Steven never lost his voice, though we did ‘bank it’ just in case it came to that.

“And, as it turned out, one of the most comforting things about losing him so suddenly was that his worst fears of a slow, degenerative death never came to pass.”

Yvonne left for work on Monday, June 17 at 7.30am as normal.

In happier days, Yvonne Pert and husband Steven.

She left Steven’s food out, fixed his feeding tube and awaited the usual call when he made it from the bedroom to his chair in the living room.

“When no call came I went straight back home.

“At 11.20am I found him.”

Steven passed away suddenly, with medics reassuring Yvonne that the cause was likely heart related.

“We’ve taken comfort from the fact it was quick and Steven wouldn’t have known anything about it.”

Final farewell planned

A celebration of Steven’s life is to take place on July 4 at 11am, in Montrose Congregational Church, followed by his cremation at 12.30 pm at Parkgrove Crematorium.

“We’ve chosen some of our favourite songs. You’ll Never Walk Alone, Going Home by Runrig and our song, The Voyage, which played when we renewed our vows at Gretna Green for our 25th anniversary,” said Yvonne.

Steven Pert, centre with his wife Yvonne and three sons.

“People can wear a flash of green if they want, too.”

Donations on the day will be given to MND Scotland and Ward 32a at Ninewells where Steven received his diagnosis.

So many milestones and memories together

Adjusting to life without “larger than life” Steven is difficult for his loved ones.

“My heart is just so sore,” said Yvonne through tears. “We miss him so much. It was all so sudden that I can’t quite come to terms with it.

“For the last few years we have taken things day by day. MND steals the ability from you to plan a future so we had just a couple of milestones in sight.

Happiest of birthdays when Steven reached his 60th earlier this year.

“One was Steven’s 60th, which he got to in April. The other was our 40th anniversary in September, which tragically we haven’t made it to.

“We learned early on that when you don’t know how much time you have it’s best not to focus on how unfair it all is, or why it happened to us.

“We had moments of wondering what we did wrong to deserve this. More recently we’ve just focused on not wasting a single minute.”

‘Glad we never wasted a minute’

Reflecting back on more than four decades together Yvonne said she’s glad they got together “as kids.”

“We had so many memories, we travelled the world, and truly we didn’t waste the time we had together. We had an amazing life, with amazing kids, their partners and now the grandchildren.

Together since secondary school, Steven and Yvonne Pert.

“His mischief, his smile, his love of our family, his devotion to Celtic… all things we won’t forget. But mainly, with aching hearts, we won’t forget him. He was our everything and he fought on with so much courage.”

Steven is survived by Yvonne, his sons and their partners Linzi, Kirsten and Jenny, and his grandchildren: Daniel, Lennon, Jet, Imogen, Faye, Shay, Eilidh-Grace, Axel and Flora, great-grandson Blake.