PENSIONER Thomas Kershaw was the guest of honour at a very special occasion on Friday night – his own wake.
The 79-year-old has Parkinson’s Disease and has been classed as in the ‘end-of-life’ stage for the last three-and-a-half years.
Rather than miss out on all the fun of his wake, he decided to go ahead and organise one while he was still around and able to enjoy it.
“Every day they write him off and say he is going to die – but he is still alive,” said granddaughter Claire Duke.
“They just keep telling us he is going to die – they told us on Boxing Day he was going to die and he was having a pint the day after.
“He never smoked, never drove a car, always rode a bike everywhere – and then 15 years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.”
“What was the point in everyone having a drink and me not being there?”Thomas Kershaw
The former steelworker, of Redcar Road, Red House, held his party at the Hepworth and Grandage Social Club in North Hylton Road on Friday.
Around 100 guests donned fancy dress for the party, including the guest of honour who dressed as Dick Turpin for the occasion.
“It was my idea – what was the point in everyone having a drink and me not being there?” said Mr Kershaw, who has five children, 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
He added: “I’m doing this to show people with Parkinson’s that it doesn’t mean that’s it, you can still live your life.
“Doctors have said I’ve had six months to live for the last three-and-a-half years – they call me the Iron Man because I just keep on going.
“This is a celebration of my life and I wanted to enjoy a party with all of my friends and family.”
Claire admitted the family had been a little taken aback by the idea of having a pre-mortem wake: “I thought it was mad, I thought he had lost the plot – we all thought he was crazy,” she said.
“But he just said ‘What’s the point, when I am not here, of everybody having a drink for me?’”
Daughter Beverly Bowman, 51, said: “I thought he was crackers when he first suggested it, I thought it was just one of those things that he’d say and we’d never hear any more about it, but he organised it all himself.”
Granddaughter Jemma Dixon, 30, said: “I thought it was a great idea and it’s nice to see everyone drinking and having a good time together.”
Daughter Marilyn Kershaw said she didn’t agree with the party at first.
The 44-year-old said: “I didn’t agree with it at first, I thought it was weird, but when I spoke to him and he told me why he wanted to do it I was all for it.
“He’s my inspiration, I’ve never met a man like him and I’m a carer in the community.
“I’ve never known anyone as strong and with such a will to live.”
Thomas’ sister, Ethel Richardson, 71, added: “In all my years I’ve never heard of anything like this, but that’s my brother and I think he’s absolutely fantastic.
“He’s a happy bloke and that’s what’s kept him going all this time.”