Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hundreds Turn out to Say Farewell to Brave Stu

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hundreds Turn out to Say Farewell to Brave Stu

Article excerpt

Byline: Will Metcalfe Reporter

HUNDREDS of people turned out for the funeral of an inspirational Tynedale rugby player who lost his battle against cancer.

Stu Ridley died on July 14 after a five-month fight against a brain tumour which inspired the Stay Strong Stu campaign, raising more than PS200,000 for charity and gaining the support of celebrities including Jonny Wilkinson, Colin Jackson and Zoe Ball.

Grieving relatives were joined by hundreds of Stu's friends and neighbours at an emotional service in St Michael's Church, in Wark.

A sea of blue filled the churchyard following a family request to 'wear blue for Stu' inspired by the Stay Strong Stu movement, with many mourners wearing the now iconic Stay Strong Stu T-shirt.

Silence fell as his coffin, draped in blue and white - the colours of Tynedale RFC - arrived in the churchyard and an emotional 45-minute service moved mourners to tears.

The church was decorated in white and gold, the traditional Church of England colours of celebration as a further tribute to Stu's courage.

Rain started to fall as the service got under way and many mourners took shelter beneath umbrellas, determined to pay tribute.

"Stu's life was family, friends, farming and rugby," said Reverend Dr Susan Ramsaran, opening the service.

Stu who along with brothers Kevin and Stephen, was part of a championship-winning rugby sevens side which won a national tournament in 2009, and the strength of the relationship was a vital part of his life.

"If you cut one, they all bleed," Dr Ramsaran added.

Tributes from his friends reflected on a courageous, cheeky farmer with a passion for life.

Along with farming and rugby, Stu's talents extended to acting and in 2003 he received a best actor award for his performances in Billingham Young Farmers' pantomime.

His friend, Joe Mills, leading tributes in the service, described how Stu performed a word perfect rendition of Puff Daddy and Faith Evans' hit I'll Be Missing You, as part of his Tynedale first team induction - despite being begged to stop by his teammates. …

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