THE cricketing community turned out in force to pay tribute to one of the sport’s biggest and most popular stalwarts.
Hundreds of friends, family and colleagues attended the funeral of Ken Gardner, former president of Hartlepool Cricket Club, yesterday.
Touching and light-hearted tributes were paid to Ken as a great sportsman, leader and motivator who gave so much to so many.
St Paul’s Church, in Grange Road, Hartlepool, was packed for the service with representatives from clubs throughout the North Yorkshire and South Durham League (NYSD) paying their respects.
Ken died last month aged 71 after a battle with illness.
He served on the committee of Hartlepool Cricket Club for 50 years and was also a member of Durham County Cricket Club committee for 35 years.
A laughter-filled eulogy was read by Chris West, who took over from Ken as NYSD league president.
Chris, 61, said: “Ken was small in stature but a giant in every other way.
“I’m sure there’s not a single person here today who cannot say they are not all the better for having known him.”
He recalled many humorous stories from Ken’s life in cricket and as a popular after-dinner speaker.
Chris added: “I held Ken in the highest esteem as a great leader and motivator.
“Half an hour in Ken’s company was worth its weight in gold because you felt better for the experience and the world felt a better place.
“One of his favourite sayings was ‘memories are better than dreams’.
“Ken left us with memories that will live on for years to come.”
Michael Gough, a close friend of Ken’s and a former Hartlepool Cricket Club player, said: “It was a marvellous turnout and shows how highly respected he was.
“He was a wonderful man who gave so much to the town and Durham County as well.”
The service was led by the Reverend Bill Worley who spoke of Ken’s love for his family and job as a personnel manager, and his sharp wit.
Rev Worley said: “He liked people, he was kind to people and he helped people. “We are all sad, his loss has touched every heart in this place.”
In 1993, Ken was awarded the MBE for services to industrial relations.
He was also a governor at Hartlepool College of Further Education, Dyke House, High Tunstall and Jesmond Road schools and worked with Cleveland Police Authority.
Ken, of Tunstall Avenue, Hartlepool, leaves wife, Carole, 66, children, Peter, 39, Andrew, 34, and Matthew, 26, and grandchildren William, three, and six-month old Bartholomew.
He was cared for at Gretton Court Nursing Home, in Heather Grove, in the town, since October.
Following the service, mourners celebrated Ken’s life at Hartlepool Cricket Club, in Park Drive.