It seems odd to talk about a “happy funeral”, but I was privileged to be present at one when we said goodbye to old friend Dave Wilson recently.
As befits a uniquely talented man, his final days and his laying to rest were most unusual.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, we gathered at Blue House Woodland Burials at Hurworth Burn, near Wingate, just outside Hartlepool.
It was my first experience of attending such a burial and it felt beautifully personal and a perfect way to pay respects and say farewells.
Dave had not expected a funeral and we could almost hear his voice around us asking what all the fuss was about.
He had pledged his body to medical research, but a final operation near the end of his life meant that this was not possible.
He would have been happy to know, though, that a successful pioneering operation he undertook will benefit many people in the future.
Knowing Dave’s fine sense of humour, I can hear him saying “Charming – you offer your body to these researcher lads and they turn it down!”
Dave was a scientist himself, with a degree in Physics, and had a brilliantly inventive mind which led to completely new technologies.
He was too modest to trumpet it, but, way back in 1968, he made a key contribution to the history of Concord, without which the record-breaking supersonic plane could not have got off the ground.
While working as a researcher for Triplex Glass in Birmingham, he worked for many hours before coming up with the idea of using fine gold around Concord’s windscreen which enabled it to fly at supersonic speed without the windscreen shattering.
Dave was actually a southerner, born in Thornaby, but he became an adopted son of Hartlepool, living in Hart Village and the town itself.
At the graveside, good friend Dave Picken gave us a beautiful eulogy which had been written by Rachel and Rebecca, very proud daughters of Dave Wilson.
My big memory of the man was the two of us crossing the finishing line together at the Great North Run back in 1992.
On the grass near the sea, Dave collapsed, coughed loudly, and then completely stopped breathing.
Lonely in a crowd, I knew that something had to be done, so, probably doing it all wrong from the first aid point of view, I punched him in the chest and the back.
To my eternal relief, he started coughing and came round.
With the help of other friends, and the professionals, he was soon back to normal life.
When we met in the years following, he often joked that he owed me a pint, but he’d wait until he was sure he was fully recovered.
I did enjoy that pint in the end, courtesy of Dave generously leaving a large tab at The Causeway afterwards.
A lovely memorial brochure was produced for the funeral and the photographs in particular summed up a life very well lived.
In appearance, he evolved from film star to David Essex lookalike to an action man who travelled the world.
He loved music and spoke perfect Spanish, especially after a few cervezas – see what I did there, Dave?
Above all, he was perfect company and could light up a room with his laughter.
The photograph you can see says it perfectly.
I can’t do better than end with the final words of that superb eulogy.
He was a true gift to this planet, he was humble and had humility in abundance. He was friendly and he was forever joking.
Let’s remember him like that and celebrate his life.