A CAVALCADE of taxis drove through Gosport to honour a taxi driver who died after a long battle with cancer.
Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to 61-year-old Tony Valente, a well-known driver and businessman.
The popular father-of-three, of Orwell Close in Priddy’s Hard, had been battling bowel cancer for years. It had spread to his liver, lungs and bones.
He died at home on April 28 with his family at his bedside.
His funeral took place at St Mary’s Church in Gosport High Street at midday, yesterday.
Beeping their horns in salute, a fleet of around 50 taxis then drove in procession behind his coffin from nearby Mumby Road to Portchester Crematorium.
His son Andrew, 31, said: ‘It is a fitting end for a truly remarkable man.
‘My dad was the most loving, caring, kind and warm-hearted father, husband and friend you could ever meet.
‘He never wanted anyone to fuss over him.
‘But I know he is probably smiling right now, happy to see so many family and friends gathered together.
‘He was an extraordinary man and an inspiration to us all. If I can be half the man he was I will be so proud.’
Tony used to work at the Bluebird and Spinnaker cafes in Lee-on-the-Solent.
He then became well-known in Gosport as a driver for Bridge Cars.
Family and friends gathered after his funeral at the Old House at Home in Priory Road, Gosport, to share their memories of Tony.
Mark Gascoigne, one of his friends, said: ‘Anybody going about their business in High Street must be wondering if there was a funeral for somebody famous going on.
‘There are so many of us paying our respects to Tony.
‘I knew Tony for 45 years and I feel I have known him like a brother.
‘You always left him with your spirits raised.
‘The day before Tony died he told me I had to do his eulogy.
‘He said he wanted me to tell everybody how much he loved his wife and his children.
‘I’m proud Tony was my friend. He gave so much.’
Tony leaves behind his wife Pam and three children.
Father Joe McNerney, of St Mary’s Church, said: ‘I first met Tony in Queen Alexandra Hospital and I got to know him.
‘He liked people. He wanted to talk to them and he wanted to find out about them.
‘There have been a lot of people praying for him here at this church.’
Donations can be made to the Rowans Hospice through Barrells Funeral Directors, 245 Fratton Road, Portsmouth, PO1 5PA.