William “Bill” Shakespeare, the first man in the United Kingdom to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, has died following a stroke.
The 81-year-old, whose famous name grabbed headlines around the world last year when he got the jab, died on Thursday, The New York Times reported, at the same hospital where he was inoculated.
On Dec. 8, Shakespeare became the second person in the country to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the University Hospital in the central England city of Coventry. Margaret Keenan kicked off the country’s vaccination campaign when she got the country’s first shot at age 90.
In a statement released by the hospital, according to the BBC, his wife Joy said her husband was “so grateful” to have been one of the first people in the world to be vaccinated against the virus.
“It was something he was hugely proud of – he loved seeing the media coverage and the positive difference he was able to make to the lives of so many,” she said. “He often talked to people about it and would always encourage everyone to get their vaccine whenever he could.”
At the time, Shakespeare said: “It could make a difference to our lives from now on, couldn’t it?”
The drama of his momentous jab was heightened by the fact that it took place just 20 miles from the birthplace of his playwright namesake.
“Taming of the flu: First man to get COVID shot in UK is named William Shakespeare,” a front page of The New York Post quipped.
Beyond his landmark immunization, Shakespeare was known for his community involvement and political activism. He worked as an official at local schools and was a parish councilor for three decades.
Local councilor Jayne Innis described her friend to the Coventry Telegraph as a “life-long campaigner,” who enjoyed photography, jazz and socializing.
Coventry Labour Party secretary Angela Hopkins told the publication that Shakespeare “walked hundreds of thousands of steps every year campaigning for the party.”
Shakespeare’s love for the natural world remains on display through the trees he helped plant in the village of Allesley back during the 1980s, and in the local forests he worked to preserve.
“Bill will be remembered for many things, including a taste for mischief,” Innis said.
In addition to his wife, Shakespeare is survived by their two adult sons and his grandchildren.