MORE than 100 people paid their final respects to Ellesmere Port's fundraising superhero Billy Birch at his funeral this morning
The father-of-four raised more than £113,000 for a host of local causes and charities over the past 26 years in memory of his beloved late wife Sylvia.
He died aged 76 on Sunday, December 10, surrounded by his family at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
Justin Madders MP, the town's mayor Nicole Meardon, police officers and paramedics were among the mourners at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church today.
At one point Billy's voice filled the church as a radio interview was played in which he described Sylvia's dying wish that he should bring more goodness to the world.
Billy's son Mally gave a touching eulogy, describing his father as a fighter who jokingly likened himself to Arnold Schwarzenegger because he always bounced back from the blows life dealt him.
“If we had to choose one word to describe our dad it would be a fighter because throughout his life he's had many battles,” Mally said.
The first came at the age of nine when on November 5, 1950, an accident with a firework left Billy without sight in one eye and partially deaf.
From then on he always warned people about the dangers of fireworks and even went on television to talk about the risks.
Describing his family's early life on an Ellesmere Port council estate, Mally said: “Every day dad would fight to make ends meet, making sure there was food on the table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.
“Even though there was very little money about our dad always made sure we didn't miss out.”
Tragedy struck on February 18, 1991, when Sylvia passed away at the age of just 49 following a brave battle with cancer.
Just four months later Billy was involved in a horrific accident at work when he was crushed between a skip and a truck.
Emerging from a coma three weeks later he vowed to do all he could to help medical services in the area and began fundraising, aiming for a total of £100,000.
Billy always said that he had briefly died while in his coma and that Sylvia had spoken to him.
“He said he saw our mum who told him to go back,” Mally said in his eulogy. “She said his time was not now.”
Mally spoke about his dad's love of football and finding out how Everton had fared in their latest game on Match of the Day.
Everyone knew Billy's face in town, be it at Bingo every night or in the local supermarket where he would often treat himself to a plate of chicken nuggets, chips and peas.
Admitted to hospital on November 29 with stomach pains, Billy underwent a 10-hour operation during which complications led to multiple organ failure. He was put into an induced coma and placed on life support.
“The surgeons and consultants didn't think he would make it through the weekend but again our dad fought to prove them all wrong,” Mally said.
“He continued fighting for a further two weeks and was showing signs of improving but in the end it proved to be one fight too many.
“We said to him 'go to our mum, she's waiting for you. This time she will not turn you away'. He passed away with all his family around his bed, the way he would have liked it.”
Mally said the family had taken great comfort in the volume of messages they had received from people across the community.
“He will never, ever be forgotten,” he said, concluding his eulogy. “Time to rest now. Rest in peace. Good night, God bless, dad.”