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Guard of honour marks fireman's final farewell

PUBLISHED: 17:31 02 July 2008 | UPDATED: 14:57 25 August 2010

GOODBYE: Crowds including fire chiefs attended the funeral.

GOODBYE: Crowds including fire chiefs attended the funeral.

SOME 400 mourners packed into a funeral hall to pay their last respects to a fireman who had given 28 years of service.

SOME 400 mourners packed into a funeral hall to pay their last respects to a fireman who had given 28 years of service.

The coffin of Neil Walker, 49, arrived at Eltham crematorium last Wednesday on the ladders of two fire engines and as it was carried in for the service, dozens of his colleagues paid tribute by forming a guard of honour.

Mr Walker, who lived in Bexleyheath, was diagnosed with cancer last year and died on Sunday, June 22 leaving behind his wife Frances and two children Michael, 12, and Georgina, 10.

Scores of fire officers and friends listened to the service via the speakers outside because the chapel was at bursting point.

His wife Frances Walker called her husband a "remarkable" man who "was always smiling and hugging people".

Speaking during the ceremony, she said: "Neil loved sport and spent many hours going around local golf courses and wanted his ashes spread at Austin Lodge in Eynsford.

"Throughout his illness he showed amazing stoicism and said support from everyone had made the last few weeks a pleasure to be alive.

"He wanted me to say thanks to each and every one of you. He was a remarkable man who was totally loved and simply the best."

Mr Walker's children also paid tribute to their father, a "devoted family man".

Georgina Walker said: "He was the greatest dad I could have ever hoped for and I really miss him. I love my dad."

Her brother, Michael, named after basketball player, Michael Jordan, one of Mr Walker's heroes, said: "He was the best dad. He was strong and helpful and kind.

"I wish he was still here. He was always patient and encouraged me and gave me hugs when I came home from school."

Mr Walker's boss, Westminster Fire Station manager, Steve Ryan, said: "It is a great honour to stand here today. Neil could light up a room with his smile and his laugh.

"He was a very well respected and liked member of the team, which you can see by the turnout for the funeral. He was self-motivated and will be very difficult to replace. He will be missed by all his colleagues."

Mr Walker joined London Fire Brigade in 1980 and served at Hendon, Islington, Tottenham and Paddington. He was promoted to Watch Manager in October 2007.

katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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