THE widow of late councillor and community champion Jim MacLeod has told how her heart is broken after losing the love of her life.

Sylvia MacLeod yesterday broke her silence following the unexpected death of her beloved at the age of 62 last month.

In a poignant interview, Sylvia told the Telegraph that she feels that her loss hasn't yet sunk in.

Greenock Telegraph:

Sylvia, 68, who was with Jim for 27 years and married for 19 of those, was at his bedside when he passed away at Inverclyde Royal, willing him to fight to stay alive.

She said that only hours before he had seemed to rally round and was writing messages.

But he later lost his brave battle against a severe respiratory condition.

Sylvia said: "He squeezed my hand and said he loved me and he was gone."

She added: "I feel empty, part of me is missing. I actually don't know what to do with myself.

"I adored him and he loved me. He was my soulmate, it was always 'Jim and Sylvia'.

"People used to say I had a big heart but if you love someone, you do all you can to look after them. I was very protective of Jim as he was of me.

"If I said the moon's lovely, he would have taken the moon out of the sky for me."

Greenock Telegraph:

"He was very romantic and a big softie. I would rant and rave and say, 'that's it- I'm leaving' - and he would just nod his head. He was very easy going.

"He had such a caring nature, I'd watch Children in Need on TV and start crying and out came the chequebook.

"If it was someone's birthday or they were having a hard time, he sent flowers."

Greenock Telegraph:

Sylvia told how the hardest thing over the last weeks has been watching all the equipment Jim used being taken away.

She said: "I broke my heart when they took his wheelchair away and although I hated that power chair, I felt I was losing another part of him.

"I felt the same when I walked into the bedroom and his bed was away.

"I keep thinking that he will barge through the door."

The couple met through mutual friends when Jim was out canvassing for the Scottish Parliament back in 1997.

She quipped: "He would tell people he met me on a street corner. It was him who was on the corner of Westburn Street and the Oak Mall!

"The minute I met him, I thought 'I like you' - I told my friend - 'he's funny, I like him', my friend Tricia said she thought the feeling was mutual."

Greenock Telegraph:

Sylvia added: "He was the most gentle, kindest, nice guy you could meet.

"He spoke to you as if he'd known you all his life."

Greenock Telegraph:

Sylvia said he was always putting other people before himself and he got a buzz over helping other people.

She said: "People were always wanting to put Jim up for awards but he always said, that seeing the smile on someone's face he had helped, was the reward for him."

Greenock Telegraph:

Jim was also a talented wheelchair basketball player, playing for Scotland and Great Britain and he travelled to America and Canada.

Greenock Telegraph:

Jim became a wheelchair user after he was knocked down on the Clune Brae aged eight and was forced out of his community to attend Trefoil School in Edinburgh for children with physical disabilities because back in the 1970s there was no disabled access in local schools at that time.

Sylvia said: "Jim was told that when he was young that he would live only until he was 40, because one of his lungs only had one third capacity.

"Things are now different because of Jim MacLeod. He tried to make things better for people with any disability, be it wheelchair access or people with hearing or sight problems. He helped to get dropped pavements introduced in Inverclyde."

Sylvia says she has been overwhelmed by messages of support, cards and flowers which fill her bungalow in Port Glasgow.

She said: "I am very touched by everyone saying how nice he was, I just wish he was here to hear all the kind words.

Greenock Telegraph:

"I thought losing my mother, Jim's dad Jimmy, and our wee dog Clyde was the worst thing I had ever gone through. I didn't think I had any more tears but it's like turning a tap on, then it stops and starts up again.

Greenock Telegraph:

"I want to thank my friends, Jim's carers and family. If I didn't have them round me I would be in my bed crying.

"Jim told me if anything happened to him, that I had to get up and wash my face, see my pals and get on with my life.

"He is still looking out for me."

She would like to thank good friends Tricia Elder and Liz Clark in particular.

Arrangements are being made for Jim's funeral and an announcement will be made in due course.