A FAMILY have been left devastated after their popular son and brother hailed as “everybody’s mate” died suddenly aged just 29.
Kevin Ainger was found at his home, off Oxford Street, Hartlepool.
His heartbroken family today spoke of their shock at the loss of the “hard-working lad” who was “the absolute life and soul of the party”.
Scores of tributes have flooded onto Kevin’s Facebook page, proving just how well-loved the Hartlepool United fan was.
His mother Pat Heron, 57, said: “We are shocked and devastated.
“He was everybody’s mate, he was just larger than life.”
Kevin was described by his family, including dad Derek Ainger, 59, brothers Chris, 39 and Derek junior, 32, and 27-year-old sister Kim as “a big character”, who knew lots of people from socialising in the Wesley nightclub as a teenager and in town pubs.
Kim said: “He was always one of those people where once you knew him, you would never forget him.
“He was a ‘leg-end’ – everybody who knows him will know what that means.”
Pat added: “He knew that if he stepped into a pub, there would be somebody there he would know.
“He has got a really good bunch of friends, we have found that out this week.”
She added that many pals want to have the honour of carrying his coffin.
Brother Derek said: “A friend of his told me that on the steps of the Wesley one time, a friend had no money, but our Kevin paid him in – generosity was one of his sticking points.”
The family say they have been amazed by the level of support offered by friends and neighbours.
Derek senior added: “We just want to thank everybody for what they have done.”
Kevin, a former Stranton Primary and Brierton school pupil who loved music and karaoke, had completed a plumbing apprenticeship at Hartlepool College of Further Education before getting a job with town firm Lorne Stewart.
He was working as a shop-fitter for Sunderland-based NCS, working all over the country, at the time of the tragedy, last Sunday morning.
An inquest is yet to open into his death, though police are not treating it as suspicious.
Kevin also leaves behind his niece Maddie, two, and nephews Lincoln, three, and seven-year-old Rhylee, who was his “best mate”.
Tributes left on Kevin’s Facebook page include one from Neil Harrison, which said: “R.I.P matey.... Heaven will be a better place....”, and another from Marc Wallace, who wrote: “R.I.P Kev gone way too soon, we had some cracking laughs in the wezlash”.
Katie Lee Sutton’s message read: “Keep checking this page hoping its a mistake. You were one in a billion Kev!”
Kevin’s friends are organising a charity night to raise money to help his family.
It will take place from 7pm on Friday, October 25 at the Changes bar in York Road, Hartlepool and includes raffles, auctions and karaoke.
His funeral will be held at 10am on Tuesday, October 22, at Stranton Crematorium.