Ellesmere Port’s renowned fundraiser Billy Birch spoke from beyond the grave to mourners at his funeral.
Over the years Billy raised an amazing £113,841 for local charities in memory of his beloved wife Sylvia who died in his arms aged 49 in 1991.
Those present at the service, held at the town’s Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Enfield Road, included Ellesmere Port mayor Nicole Meardon, Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders with ambulance and police service representatives in addition to chief mourners and many others.
In the eulogy Billy’s son Malcolm told how in 1950 as a boy his father was injured by a firework which left him blind in one eye and partially deaf.
Following the loss of his wife, Billy, working for a building firm, had a horrific accident the same year when he was crushed between a skip and a dumper truck.
He was in a coma for three weeks and when he woke up decided he would give something back to the people who helped him.
His target had been £100,000 but in the end he raised more than £113,000, never giving money but instead buying a piece of equipment that was needed by an organisation.
There followed a recording of a radio interview in which Billy expressed his gratitude to the generous people of Ellesmere Port.
The 76-year-old, who was extremely well known in the town for his steadfast fundraising for good causes, had been in intensive care at the Countess of Chester Hospital suffering from multiple organ failure following a 10 hour operation.
Although he had been showing some signs of progress Billy lost his fight surrounded by his family.
Celebrant Fr Niall Mullaley referred to the church’s Christmas decorations and crib bringing light to the world and how Billy also brought light and encouragement to many people with his acts of kindness and generosity.
Billy’s coffin was greeted and blessed at the church door before proceeding into the church.
Music during the service included the gathering hymn, ‘Morning Has Broken’, ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ and the hymn of farewell ‘I watch the sunrise lighting the sky’, The service concluded with prayers of final commendation and farewell.
At the back of church there were large bags of sweets for the congregation to help themselves to as Billy had been well-known for carrying a bag and offering one to anyone who needed cheering up.
Mr Madders said following Billy’s passing: “He will be remembered by the people of Ellesmere Port for his tireless fundraising activities and for his sense of humour.”
A social media post at the time said: “What a legend this man is....selfless, giving, caring. A true angel.
“Rest in peace Mr Birch, you’ve earned a red carpet to the pearly gates.”