'It has been hard to find the words that do such an amazing man justice'.
Those were the words of Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital after its founder Dennis Fenter MBE died at St Richard's Hospital on Wednesday, July 17 following a stroke at the age of 89, after nearly 50 years of caring for animals.
Posting on its Facebook page, the Sidleham-based charity said it was 'incredibly proud' to be part of the 'legacy that Dennis has left behind'.
It wrote: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our founder, Dennis Fenter.
"He passed away peacefully in his sleep. We would like to send our sincerest condolences to his wife Yvonne and all of his close friends and family. We are all thinking of you at this difficult time.
"It has been hard to find the words that do such an amazing man justice. Dennis was a selfless, larger than life man who dedicated his life to caring for animals and his community.
"From humble beginnings in Eartham where he began his journey of helping sick, injured and orphaned wild animals and birds to the incredible charity that he created that is still continuing to care for over 3,500 wild animals every year.
"We will work hard to ensure his passion continues well into the future and will continue to spread his message about caring for all creatures, great and small.
"Rest in peace Dennis. We will always strive to make Brent Lodge the best it can be and make you proud. It has been a true privilege to know you and work alongside you."
According to his wife Yvonne, Dennis' work with animals began in 1971 when he rescued a drowning sparrow from his pond.
Yvonne, 64, who lived with Dennis in Almodington, said: "He started rescuing wildlife from then as a part time role. He set up Brent Lodge in 1977 and worked there full time.
"He retired officially from running the hospital in 1996, but continued to maintain a decreasing involvement until the year before his death.
"I was with Dennis for over 20 years but we married in 2006. He was 25 years order but we had a shared love of many things."
In June 1998, Dennis' contribution to wildlife rescue was formally recognised when he was awarded the MBE for services to Brent Lodge.
According to Dennis' biography, written in 1998, Chris Horton, Brent Lodge trustee and volunteer, said at that time: “Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital depends on the wonderful team effort of our staff and volunteers. But none of this would have been possible without Dennis’s chance encounter with a drowning sparrow, following which he chose to dedicate his life to helping sick and injured wildlife.
"His personal drive, enterprise and dedication has made Brent Lodge what it is today - one of the most respected wildlife hospitals in the country, and I am extremely pleased that Dennis’s major contribution to wildlife rehabilitation has been recognised by this award.”
More than 150 comments have been left on Brent Lodge's Facebook post and Yvonne said she and Dennis' son have been 'overwhelmed' with the 'huge number'.
She added: "With Brent Lodge, he left a major legacy. He was really pleased about the way it turned out. He had dedicated staff and a lot of supporters. He was really proud.
"He was part of the community and was just a nice bloke. He would do anything to help anybody. He was that kind of character. People really loved him.
"As well as animals, he also changed people's lives. He changed so many lives as went along, probably without even realising."
Yvonne said the family will be holding an 'upbeat funeral' as a 'celebration of his life and what he achieved' at Chichester Crematorium at 2pm on Monday, August 5.
"Bright colours and no flowers," she said.
"All who knew him are very welcome to attend the funeral and reception afterwards. Donations in his memory can be made via Reynolds, details here.
"I would also like to thank the Middleton ward at St Richard's Hospital for their care."