Inspiration Behind the Leader – Catherine Devereux, The Russ Devereux Headlight Project

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Inspiration Behind the Leader – Catherine Devereux, The Russ Devereux Headlight Project

Behind every great leader is a story of inspiration; I’ve written about mine here.

I regularly speak to my clients about their inspiration – recently, Catherine Devereux, founder of The Russ Devereux Headlight Project, told me about how her late husband’s life and death inspires her every day.

I was 39 when I became a widow. Since then, I have rebuilt my life, rebuilt my family and built a charity – and my late husband Russ has been the inspiration behind it all.

My husband, Russ Devereux, was a kind, modest and gentle soul with a wonderful sense of humour and great and unique sense of style.

He was handsome, always very caring, good fun to be with and we always used to laugh together. Everyone says it, but he really was my best friend as well as my husband.

He was a brilliant dad to our three girls; he spent a lot of time at work but in his spare time it was all about the girls – well, that and golf!

He had worked at the family transport company, Devereux’s, for 24 years and ran the company in recent years along with his dad, Ken, and uncle, Tony. He was very proud of the business that his grandad had set up 70 years ago and it has a strong reputation for being one of the leading hauliers in the area.

At work, he was a very committed, conscientious and dedicated leader, who always made time for the staff, and if anyone was in any bother, he would always try to help them out. He gave many staff a start when he was approached for a job. He was passionate about the family business and worked very hard.

He always appeared to manage the stress of running a large company really well, until an incident involving an employee in April 2018 that had a catastrophic effect on him.

Russ became acutely anxious about the impact that the accident might have on the company and its reputation; he became consumed with stress, not sleeping or eating.

Just two weeks after the incident, Russ took his own life at the age of 41. And despite my grief and devastation at what he left behind, he was, and remains, my inspiration.

Russ’ death was the single motivating factor in setting up the Russ Devereux Headlight Project (RDHP) charity. For a long time after he died, I couldn’t see a way out of my grief, but I had this overwhelming desire to create something that I could have benefited from when I lost Russ.

I wanted to make sure that anyone who found themselves in similar circumstances in future had somewhere to go that understood how it felt to be going through what I was.

When he was alive, Russ inspired me because of his work ethic and because of the true and kind person he was. I was very proud of him and that he was my husband.

Now, he inspires me in a different way. His memory pushes me on every day, to make sure that something good has come from such tragic circumstances, and to make a happy, successful life for our girls.

I hope he would be proud of what we have achieved in his memory, and also proud of how we have coped and rebuilt our lives without him. Most importantly, I hope he would be proud of the beautiful girls our daughters are growing into. They have kept me going and they amaze me every day with their courage, resilience, and ability to keep bringing joy.

However, no matter how much joy we have in our lives, nothing changes the fact that I wish Russ had never left us. I wish with all my heart that he’d felt there was another option other than the decision he made, because he could never have appreciated the sheer devastation it caused to me, the children and our family and friends.

However, despite the tragedy, I still count myself very lucky for everything I still have: the most amazing three children and incredible family. My parents, sister Jo, brother Jamie and their families have been our constant support, even during the times I know I was difficult to love. I’m also surrounded by some very special friends; in particular, my friend Joanne, who I could not have managed without; she picked me up on some of my darkest days.

However, the world continues to turn, and, over time, we have all learned to live with our grief.

I now have hope for the future, for a new life with someone special, and whilst my life will never be the same as before Russ died, it will be one that is happy and filled with love, because that’s ultimately the real success of living.