VILLAGERS packed into St Luke’s Church in Goostrey on Friday to celebrate the life of one of the stalwarts of the community.

The church was filled to capacity with close family, relatives and friends for laughter, song and tears at a Service of Thanksgiving in memory of Gerald Foster Clark.

The funeral was a fitting send-off for Gerald, a resident of the village with his wife, Liz, for more than 35 years, who died last month. Gerald was just short of 77, having been born in Croydon in 1941 and evacuated to Yorkshire from the worst of the bombing in the Second World War, and died, in the words of many, after a 'life well lived' with a great sense of humour, love of family and church and a friend to many.

His children spoke of life with a dad who was fun, loved dressing up and family holidays, and once, when disbelief in Father Christmas was expressed, took to the snow-covered roof to leave the children with the impression that Santa was indeed real.

Music and hymns provided by Congleton Choral Society were Gerald's choice for the Service of Thanksgiving for his life, followed by interment in Goostrey graveyard.

His coffin was placed overnight in the church where he was a member of the choir and cross bearer.

It was revealed that his wish was for his remains to be donated to Keele University for research, but only his corneas were taken.

The Vicar of Goostrey, the Reverend Heather Buckley, who conducted the service, which included prayers led by the Rev Canon Tony Sparham, a former Rector now retired and living in Scotland, said of Gerald: “He was always a man who could make you smile. Whenever you met him he walked towards you with a lovely smile.”