THE son of a much-loved Rayleigh station coffee shop worker has paid tribute to his “bubbly, fun and charismatic” mum who died after a battle with terminal cancer.

Gillian Knowler died peacefully at the age of 66 last Monday after being diagnosed with mesothelioma – a cancer of the lining of the lungs.

For 12 years, she was the “ray of sunshine” stationed at the platform’s Brilliant Coffee Company kiosk, where countless warm coffees with a smile and a hint of “lovable craziness” were served.

Echo: Happy place - Gillian working in the Brilliant Coffee Company kioskHappy place - Gillian working in the Brilliant Coffee Company kiosk (Image: Matt Manning)

Her death comes as she called on her ex-Kellogg International colleagues at Canvey’s Occidental oil refinery to come forward with information on working wile exposed to asbestos, for which the type of cancer is commonly associated with.

Her son Matt Manning, 35, who grew up in Rayleigh and then moved to Cape Town, South Africa in 2011, said: “She was always the life and soul of the party, she was full of energy and lived to love everybody.

“She worked at the coffee kiosk for 12 years, and it really was her stage where she could do what she did best – make people happy.

“The world would be a much better place with more people like mum.”

When her son shared the news on Facebook, hundreds of people paid their respects to the “lovely soul”.

One commuter said: “I used Rayleigh station years ago and would regularly get a cuppa. She was always friendly and polite. Put a smile on your face as you head to work.”

And another added: “What a pleasure it was to have your mums smiling face in the coffee booth. Condolences to your family."

Echo: Love - Gillian with her husband MickLove - Gillian with her husband Mick (Image: Matt Manning)


Matt said he feels “very proud with how many left tributes and didn’t realise how many lives she touched”.

The mum-of-two and grandmother-of-three worked as a print room operator at now defunct Kellogg in 1974 and remained for six months.

Echo: Family - Gillian with Matt and two of her grandchildren Roman and MaximusFamily - Gillian with Matt and two of her grandchildren Roman and Maximus (Image: Matt Manning)

She recalled people coming into the office with their overalls “covered in dust”, of which she believes contained asbestos fibres.

Commuters can pay tribute to Gillian as the hearse will be driving past Rayleigh station at 10am.

Her funeral is on Wednesday at the Basildon and District Cemetery and Crematorium, in Church Road, Bowers Gifford, at 10.30am.