HUNDREDS of people gathered to pay their final respects to Mark Dixon today.
More than 200 people packed into St Laurence Church, in Pittington, to pay their final respects to Mark, who died a week after being attacked in York Road, Hartlepool, in the early hours of October 5.
Reverend Dr Miranda Threlfall-Homes led those saying goodbye to the much-loved 32-year-old.
The church was the “special place” were Mark’s five-year-old daughter Ella was christened and where Loraine’s grandfather is buried.
The couple had also talked about both being laid to rest there.
“But nobody expected it to be so soon,” said Reverend Dr Miranda Threlfall-Homes.
She added: “The violent and sudden nature of Mark’s death has come completely out of the blue.
“Everyone associated Mark as being chilled, as the one who would calm people down and placate any trouble - the last person you would expect to be on the end of a complete and unprovoked attack that left him fighting for his life.
“I wonder if Mark realised how popular he was.”
His cousin and “best mate” Gary Horton read out a touching poem Mark had sent in 2007.
Rev Dr Threlfall-Homes said Mark, 32, often showed his “softer” and “romantic” side and how important his family was to him.
She said his mum Angela described the former Clavering Primary and English Martyrs student as “never any bother as a child” and “very competitive”.
After school, Mark started a two-year apprenticeship as an architect and then worked for Britton Decoflex, on Hartlepool’s Oaksway Trading Estate.
“His greatest loves were his family first and football and his many friends a very close second”, added the reverend.
Mourners were told how Mark and Loraine met in Hartlepool’s 42nd Street nightclub 10 years ago, became a couple just days later and had been together ever since.
They were engaged after four months and had been married for seven years.
“Loraine brought out Mark’s romantic side,” said Rev Dr Threlfall-Homes.
She described how Mark had proposed on a beach in Benidorm, but Loraine had overheard him planning to propose on the phone, so she knew what was coming.
Daughter Ella, who Mark called his “princess”, was born a year later and the couple lived in Peterlee.
Mourners were told that Mark would leave notes for Loraine and Ella to find, including in Ella’s lunchbox, saying how much he loved them.
Mark, a keen golfer, angler and Manchester United fan, was described as “the nicest lad anyone could hope to meet, laid-back and generous, an all-round good man, who nobody had a bad word to say about and someone everyone immediately liked when they met him”.
The church heard about his love for football, having played for Belle Vue Old Boys and then the Sports Bar teams.
A smile was raised when the reverend recalled how during a stag weekend in Leeds, Mark and a friend got separated from their group and ended up in a bar being chatted by a 6ft 6in man.
“They realised they were in a gay bar, but realised they were the ones in the room looking the campest,” added Rev Dr Threlfall-Homes.
She also described how Mark loved his designer clothes and spent most of his time in the football changing rooms preening and moisturising himself.
Mark’s coffin, laden with white lilies and cream roses, was brought into the church to the strains of With Or Without You.
Mourners were also asked to gather their memories of Mark while his favourite song, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved by The Script played.
Rev Dr Threlfall-Homes encouraged mourners to donate to a collection for the intensive care unit at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, where Mark had so bravely fought for his life.
The reverend also said Mark’s family had been “overwhelmed by expressions of support”, and described how a fund set up to help the family, at GoFundMe, initially aiming to raise £1,000 had now topped more than £8,000.
Mark was laid to rest at Pittington Cemetery and a wake was held at Belle Vue Social Club, in Hartlepool.
A cortege of five funeral cars stopped at the spot in York Road where Mark was attacked.
Before the funeral, cousin Gary asked the Mail to thank all who had supported the family in their darkest hour, including all Mark’s friends, many of whom had kept a bedside vigil with him as Mark clung to life.
He also thanked Mandy and Jimmy Burns of James Print who made the order of service for the funeral, and the staff at Hartlepool’s Co-operative Funeral Service.
• A 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault and is currently on police bail.