IT WAS the spot he loved the most, where he would spend his time sitting and feeding the swans.
Simon Burgess would go to the lake at Walpole Park in Gosport several times a day to feed the birds.
Now, a bench has been unveiled in his memory – at the exact spot he used to sit.
The plaque on the bench reads: ‘Missed by all those whose lives he touched. Simon ‘Swan Man’ Burgess’.
As previously reported in The News, Simon was found floating face down in the water in March last year. The 41-year-old had suffered an epileptic seizure and drowned.
The Vicar of Holy Trinity, the Rev Andy Davis, led a short service, reading a poem and saying a prayer for Mr Burgess.
He said: ‘Simon’s family have been overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of care and support for him and the way that all of you and many people across Gosport have taken Simon to your hearts.
‘So the family feel that today is a day for you, the people of Gosport, who loved Simon.
‘This bench and this plaque are signs of how much Gosport meant to Simon and how much this particular place meant to him.’
The money for the bench – around £1,000 – was raised by people in the town.
Tina Pearce, who used to work with Simon at the charity shop Rose Road, said during the service: ‘I don’t remember the first time I met him, he always seems to have been there and been in my life.
‘He was a good friend and the gap in my life will never be filled.’
Afterwards, she added: ‘He would have thought this was amazing.
‘Feeding the birds was his life.
‘He would have been down here three or four times a day.
‘He was a local face and someone that everyone knew.’
Simon’s mum Janet Burgess, 67, added: ‘I don’t think I can put it into words.
‘It’s such a lift to know that he was so well-liked and loved and that all these people a year after are still supporting him and remembering him.
‘The writing on the bench is just perfect.
‘He was so happy here.’
ACCIDENTAL DEATH VERDICT
Portsmouth’s coroner David Horsley recorded a verdict of accidental death at an inquest in to Simon’s death.
His death sparked controversy after Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service was criticised for leaving Simon, of White Lion Walk in Gosport, in the lake while a specialist recovery team arrived from Fareham. Firefighters said they believed he was already dead so didn’t go in.
The coroner said he would file a report with all three emergency services involved, recommending they improve their training.