Trevor Belle, 61, died in the Royal London Hospital on April 18, having tested positive for COVID-19. His friend Damian Briggs said that several weeks earlier, the east Londoner had been spat at by a passenger who owed him £9.
After the incident in Stratford on March 22, Mr Belle began to feel unwell with symptoms of coronavirus.
Mr Briggs said: “A few days later he got rushed into hospital, he spent three weeks battling it and unfortunately didn’t make it to the end.”
Mr Belle, who had just become a grandfather, died three days after his 61st birthday.
His friend said: “It’s devastating that he’s caught it doing his job.”
After his death, Mr Belle’s blood was donated to research into the effects of COVID-19 in people from BAME communities, Mr Briggs said, as he paid tribute to his “die-hard Arsenal supporter” friend.
He described them as “not blood brothers, but we are brothers”.
Mr Briggs said: “Best way I can describe Trev is just a jovial person who, as serious as life is, would always find a way to get a smile on your face so you can take your mind off the problem.
“It was very rare you saw something that bothered this guy.
“No matter how bad it was, he always found a way to have a laugh and chuckle.”
The fundraising page can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/trevor-belle.