“For a man who had no family, what a family.”
Those were the words which welcomed more than 100 people, who turned up to pay their respects to a war veteran, who died without any relatives.
John Simpson, who was known as Jack, had served in the Royal Navy, but had suffered years of mental ill health after leaving the services.
He spent the last six years in Lindisfarne House in Dawdon, Seaham, which specialises in dementia care, where he won the hearts of its staff and fellow residents with his “cheeky smile and twinkle in his eye”.
Veterans and cadets from across the region joined its care team, with more than 100 people packing out Durham Crematorium with a service which opened with I Did It My Way and closed with Elvis Presley’s The Wonder of You.
Many veterans wore their caps and medals, while serving cadets and councillors who represent Seaham were also present, with the standard bearers who presented the Royal British Legion and Royal Navy Association.
The ceremony was led by funeral director Kenneth Taylor who told those gathered: “For a man who had no family that we know of, what a family.”
“At 82 years old, we know little about Jack,” Mr Taylor added.
“He spent his last years in Lindsfarne care home and we know Jack was in the Royal Navy and served as an engine room stoker.
“This gave Jack the opportunity to travel the world and see many sights and different cultures. While Jack was in the Navy, he did some boxing and he said he went toe to toe with Joe Louis and that’s how he had broken his nose.
“For the last 30 years, Jack was in care in hospitals and institutions and spent the last six in Lindisfarne, where he became friends with residents and staff.
“Jack loved to socialise, really liked dancing and the games room, as well as watching football and day trips.
“Staff will have memories and some are just going to remember Jack from this occasion if nothing, else.
“Rest in peace Jack, you served your country well.”
All stood for the Exhortation following the Lord’s Prayer, with a final tribute given before the service came to an end.