THEY were the best of friends and saw each other every day.
So it was utterly devastating for Sonia Watt to lose her grandfather, Ray Elsmore, the lollipop man who died after being hit by a car during his afternoon shift.
But, inspired by Ray’s generous nature, Sonia and her family are using their grief to find the strength to raise money to help save lives.
Sonia and her cousin Hayley Harris have organised a charity 5km walk to raise money for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.
A crew from the air ambulance battled to save the 82-year-old after the incident in Tempest Avenue, Waterlooville, in December, a short walk from Ray’s home in Florentine Way.
Sonia, 39, of Mill Road, Waterlooville, who works at Crookhorn College, said: ‘I used to see him every day.
‘My daughter is 12. She went to Queens Inclosure School and would walk down and meet him.
‘We all feel quite lucky we have had him in our lives for such a long time.
‘I feel privileged I have had him for so long.
‘We are all finding our own ways to get through it.
‘We want to do as much as we can to help now because so many people have helped us.
‘It’s just to show our appreciation to what everyone has done.’
Sonia said she and her family had been overwhelmed by the support from the community.
To date, more than 560 people have joined an online campaign calling for safety improvements in the busy road Ray used to work in.
Sonia said: ‘He loved it. After my nan died 17 years ago, it gave him something to do.
‘He loved the kids and loved all the mums and helping them to cross the road.
‘Obviously everybody loved him – we all do.
‘You could chat to him about anything.
‘He was so friendly to everyone and you couldn’t help but feel good around him. He was just so positive all the time.
‘We’re getting there, but it’s a long drawn-out process because of everything else that is going on.’
The charity walk will begin and end at The Hampshire Rose pub, in London Road, Widley, on Saturday, February 23.
Walkers are asked to meet at the pub at 11am. Sonia said they were planning to give lollipops to participants.
Regarding the air ambulance, she added: ‘It doesn’t get funding. They have to find it themselves. You never know when you will need them yourself.’
The investigation into the collision is on-going.
A 21-year-old woman, from Cowplain, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving and is on bail until April 30.