Veteran Derek Cousins was recovering from oesophageal cancer when he decided to fundraise for the Rocky Appeal at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
The 77-year-old former chief petty officer was on the ride with his grandson Morgan Cousins-White, 15, and sons Darren Cousins, 48, and Owen Phelps-Cousins, 45.
Derek’s daughter Denise Redman, 52, of Chiltern Walk, Fareham, said: ‘For all of us three child he was an example.
‘He was hard-working, always there, family was always primary and he was supportive and funny. If you rang their home number he would always answer: ‘War Office, do you want a fight?”’
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His widow Enid, 73, of Fareham, added: ‘Apart from being a family man, he was also an inspiration to others.’
Derek had been cycling a 32-mile ride, covering the harbours when he told his family to go on ahead without him as they reached Cams Hall, not far from The Roundabout pub where they planned to stop for the day.
But just minutes later he suffered a heart attack, with his sons and grandson rushing back and raising the alarm.
Paramedics raced to save him and took over CPR from his son but he tragically died at QA Hospital, in Cosham.
But now the family have been stunned as hundreds of people are expected at his funeral at St Barbara’s Church, HMS Excellent tomorrow.
Denise added: ‘That’s what’s been surprising for us as the amount of people that we’re being told to expect – there are people travelling from all over the country.’
The former sailor served 27 years in the Royal Navy, largely in Portsmouth, training the field gun and display teams.
‘He had oesophagus cancer so he had a lot of treatment at the QA,’ Denise said.
‘It was up to him that he wanted to give something back. He’d been knocked off his feet for a year.’
Morgan has since set up a JustGiving page, raising £1,500 for the Rocky Appeal, which funds the Da Vinci surgery robot.
Mick Lyons, Rocky Appeal co-ordinator, said: ‘It is tragic to hear what has happened to someone trying to help us.
‘It is sad that someone who is helping us by fundraising has passed away.
‘We really appreciate what he and his family have done.
‘We rely on people who fundraise to keep the Da Vinci robot in Portsmouth.
‘It is so important without people willing to help, we would be struggling to raise the money needed to keep it.’
Donate here justgiving.com/crowdfunding/derek-cousins