Friends and family shared fond memories of Andy Prowting as tributes were paid at his funeral service.
Around 300 people gathered at Portchester Crematorium to say goodbye to Andy, the 24-year-old from Leigh Park who lost his battle with skin cancer earlier this month.
They heard words from a moving letter from him to his mother, Julie Williams, written in April but found after he died.
After being told in August the cancer was terminal and had spread to his liver and bones, Andy, a security guard, of Silkstead Avenue, was joined by people across the world in his campaign to raise enough money to have a potentially life-saving operation in America.
Sadly, despite raising more than £45,000, he died on December 10.
Yesterday his coffin, which was painted with pictures of Andy and a pink VW camper van, was taken to the crematorium in an ornate glass-sided horse-drawn carriage.
It was carried in to one of Andy’s favourite songs, Kingston Town by UB40.
The dress code was T-shirts, badges, and even hair bows, bearing the words Andy’s Army – the name of the fundraising campaign.
Andy’s fiancée, Sarah Barclay, fought back tears as she read out a beautiful poem called I Fell In Love With You All.
Celebrant Andy Searson, a long-time family friend, explained how Andy and Sarah came to be engaged after meeting in December 2012.
He said: ‘In November they travelled to the Lake District in a pink and white camper van. It was there Andy proposed and Sarah graciously accepted.’
And, as well as heartfelt tributes, there was also laughter as people remembered the man who was always smiling.
Mr Searson said: ‘Andy was a joker. He had a unique characteristic which enabled him to make people smile and laugh.’
He explained how handsome Andy had been a hit with the ladies from a young age and took a huge amount of care in his appearance. As a child the former Havant Academy pupil dreamed of becoming a police officer but a back injury stopped him, ‘Instead he did the next best thing and became a security guard,’ said Mr Searson. ‘He worked at Gunwharf for four years and loved it.’
Andy never gave up hope of finding a cure for the cancer which he think he got when a mole turned cancerous on holiday in Turkey in 2013. Even the day before he died Mr Searson said he was in contact with the clinic in America sending them medical notes. But it was too late.
Mr Searson said: ‘I believe Andy chose when to go. It happened when he was surrounded by his family and friends – all the people he loved. He closed his eyes and went to sleep.’
A photo montage of Andy was accompanied by the songs I’ll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy and I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing by Aerosmith.
In a moment which would have put a smile on joker Andy’s face, the Right Said Fred song I’m Too Sexy played as mourners left the chapel.
Four doves of peace were released in the fountain courtyard.
‘Little soldier’ left moving letter for mum
IN April Andy underwent an operation to remove the lymph nodes under his right arm and tissue in his back as part of aggressive treatment.
It was at this emotional time he wrote a letter on his laptop which he called The Last Goodbye. It was found after he died.
Here is a poignant extract which was read out at his funeral.
‘I’ve lived a rather unusual life. Some very happy memories and some very sad,’ he wrote.
‘Some things I deeply regret, other things I have deeply enjoyed.
‘I’ve made many mistakes but always tried learning from them to make myself a better person.
‘I’ve come to realise no matter how much I do life always throws new challenges and, even though I’ve faced and battled a few over the years, this will be the most difficult and terrifying challenge of all.
‘I’ve been fortunate to have had wonderful people in my life – family and friends.
‘My family have had their ups and downs. We’ve drifted apart at times but always come together in a crisis as if we’ve never been apart.
‘But the strongest person in my life, the person who raised me to be her baby, her little solider, is my mum.
‘My mum who has helped make me the person I am.
‘My mum who has always been there for me.
‘My mum is the best mum in the world – an amazing mum and today I just want you to know what an amazing job you’ve done.’
Huge community support behind Andy’s fight
THE fundraising campaign to reach the £60,000 goal for life-saving treatment in America brought together a community.
Andy Prowting grew up with his mother Julie Williams and sisters Sarah and Sam, in Leigh Park.
When he was first told that his severe cancer, malignant melanoma, had spread to his bones and liver and was untreatable, Andy immediately set about trying to prove doctors wrong.
From his own research he found out about potentially-lifesaving treatment in Texas.
The Burzynski Clinic in Houston offers treatment called approved targeted therapy, where drugs are given to stop the growth and spread of cancer.
But it cost £60,000 for the treatment.
The Leigh Park community sprang into action and Andy’s Army was set up – the fundraising group which did everything from sponsored walks, sky dives, a record-breaking ice bucket challenge and car rallies to raise funds.
He personally attended as many as he could and was recently due at a car meet in Southsea.
Following his death earlier this month the car rally turned into a candlelit vigil instead.
Donations came not just from local people but from around the world.
Andy Searson, the celebrant who led Andy’s funeral yesterday, said the £45,000 which has been raised will be donated to the children and young adults cancer ward at Southampton General Hospital.
To donate in Andy’s memory go to the Andy’s Army Facebook page.