More than 100 firefighters formed a guard of honour to say goodbye to a watch manager who died just three months after retiring.
Family, friends and colleagues of Dave Thomason packed into Leigh Parish Church on Friday for his funeral.
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The 54-year-old was enjoying the start of his retirement, after spending 30 years with the fire service.
He officially retired in January after 12 years as watch manager at Hindley, having previously worked at stations in Leigh, Sale and Moss Side.
But the father-of-two died suddenly on March 16 after a heart attack at his home on Bowden Close, Leigh.
His wife Denise said: “We feel he’s been robbed. He has worked so hard for 30 years looking after other people in the fire service. This was his time to chill and enjoy himself and reap the rewards and it’s been taken away from us. It’s difficult to comprehend.”
Dave grew up in Leigh and became an apprentice welder, before joining the fire service in 1988.
His wife said he loved his colleagues but did not often talk about his work.
He was proud to lay a wreath at the war memorial in Hindley on Remembrance Day last year.
Denise said: “He was proud of being a firefighter. He was a bit of an unsung hero and didn’t brag about it.”
His colleagues at Hindley fire station described him as a “no-nonsense officer” who was “very proud” of his work.
They said people “looked up to him as an example of how to conduct yourself and how to do the job properly”.
Dave and Denise had been together since they were 14 and got married in 1986.
They had two sons Adam, 28, and Andy, 25, of which he was “immensely proud”.
Dave loved motorbikes and had been to the TT every year for the last 20 years.
He had a season ticket at Leigh Centurions and was involved with Leigh Miners, where his son Adam plays.
He enjoyed holidays and nights out with friends, and was looking into volunteering with Guide Dogs.
His black labrador Ozzy attended the funeral.
Dave was a fan of heavy metal music and songs by Metallica and Motorhead were played in the church.
Denise said: “He was quite a character. He was very professional. He was 6ft 3ins so you did notice him in a crowd, but he wasn’t the life and soul of the party. He had a very dry sense of humour and was very witty.”
She thanked her family, friends, colleagues and the fire service for their “tremendous support” since Dave’s death.