Widow's journey to Disneyland to spread husband's ashes ruined after 'airport blunder'

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A widow’s journey to bury some of her husband’s ashes and their wedding rings was ruined after an airline left her suitcase behind containing the items. Joyce Jackson, 78, was flying to Florida to take her late husband’s ashes and their rings to their favourite holiday destination.

But she claims Virgin Atlantic tainted the experience after leaving her suitcase that contained the ashes and wedding rings at Manchester Airport.

Mrs Jackson believes it was because the airline’s own “flimsy” tag, which loops around the luggage handle, came off. Mrs Jackson, whose husband Gordon died aged 78 after a tragic accident, had planned the US trip in his memory.

It was near to what would have been his 80th birthday and their wedding anniversary. The couple used to holiday at the Carribean Beach Resort at the resort in Orlando, with Mrs Jackson intending to bury the items in the garden of the hotel which holds deep meaning to the widow.

Mrs Jackson told North Wales Live: “Gordon absolutely loved it there. He would talk to the characters. It wasn’t a pilgrimage but I wanted to bury some of his ashes and our wedding rings there. But it was as if Virgin Atlantic didn’t care.”

Even though she had no suitcase – with its precious cargo – to collect at the Orlando airport, Mrs Jackson was determined to plough on and enjoy her trip. She said: “Gordon would have said: ‘Good on you’. “

Mrs Jackson travelled to Manchester Airport to fly to Orlando on October 4 with some of Gordon’s ashes in a single, grey suitcase. The main consignment of ashes remains at her Abergele home.

She said: “At Manchester Airport I was told I had to use the self-service bag drop. I did that and got a luggage label. A man put it on. It wasn’t a sticky label where you loop it round a handle and stick both ends together. It was more like a paper one. But it must have come off. I got to Orlando, and no luggage.

“I travel light and I only had what I was wearing – not even a toothbrush. But the worst thing about it was the ashes and rings were in the suitcase. I know you can’t take a person’s ashes with you so I only had a few ashes and our wedding rings. I was going to bury them in a garden at Caribbean Beach Resort. The main ashes are in a rose pot in our garden.”

Mrs Jackson has complained to Virgin Atlantic. She had told Virgin there were sentimental items in the case.

Once staff at Walt Disney World learned what had happened they were helpful and gave her a toothbrush and arranged for a taxi to take her to a supermarket so she could buy hairspray and toothpaste.

Mrs Jackson also bought three dresses, a T-shirt and a bag.

She estimates she spent about £700 extra on clothes and toiletries to replace those in her lost suitcase.

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She says it was only located when a duty manager in Orlando traced it to Manchester Airport – where it had been all along. Mrs Jackson flew home on October 13 and has now been reunited with her luggage.

The widow believes it was the last chance to bury those few ashes and sentimental rings. She said: “I can’t go back because I can’t afford it and I’m 78.” However, Mrs Jackson said she was determined to make the most of her trip, despite the luggage setback.

She said: “I couldn’t stay in a hotel room. I did go out every day. I had to enjoy it. I went on the boats and the cable cars – I went to the places that we loved. It was not a pilgrimage. It was not sad until they lost the suitcase then it was sad.”

Married for 57 years, Joyce and Gordon had tied the knot at St John’s Baptist Church in Sussex Street, Rhyl, on September 26, 1964. He was a vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the band Brian Sharpe and the Senators and later a vocalist and bassist in his own band Mr Blue in the Eighties.

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Joyce owned JJ’s Bridal Veils shop in Kinmel Bay and Gordon was a council joiner. Later he worked in sales at the shop until they left in 2009. Their daughter Tracey runs it now. But tragedy struck last year when Mr Jackson had an accident and died on June 3, 2021.

After a long walk in Pentre Park in Abergele, the couple got into town where Mr Jackson said he wasn’t feeling well.

Mrs Jackson said he held onto a lamppost and when she turned her head away, he passed out and fell backwards into the road.

He got a fractured skull and did not regain consciousness.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “We’re sincerely sorry that Mrs Jackson did not receive her luggage in Orlando, particularly in these circumstances. We’re investigating what happened at Manchester Airport and will be in touch with Mrs Jackson directly.”



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