Tributes to East Durham and Hartlepool rugby stalwart

"Big Bill" Featonby and wife Denise.
"Big Bill" Featonby and wife Denise.

Tributes have been paid to a “gentle giant” of the local rugby world following his death after a short illness.

“Big Bill” Featonby, 73, was chairman of the Hartlepool and District Rugby association and a former West Hartlepool and Horden player.

He died in hospital from pneumonia on August 24 with his funeral service to be held this Monday, September 10.

As a farewell gesture to the sport he loved, his family have asked mourners not to send flowers and to instead make donations to Horden and Peterlee Rugby Club’s mini section.

Bill, from Horden, is survived by wife Denise and daughters Marie Fenwick, 47, from Peterlee, Lyn East, 44, of Wingate, and five grandchildren.

Mrs East said: “At 6ft 5in tall he was a gentle giant who loved his family and was well respected.

“He was well known for his sense of humour and his ability to hold people’s attention with an awful joke.”

A fitter by trade, Bill, who also played flanker for Houghton, served in the Merchant Navy from 1967-69 and transported fuel to the American military during the Vietnam War.

After returning home to work for ICI, he began his long association with Horden where his roles included player, coach, referee, committee member, fixture secretary and president.

Mrs East added: “He still had a special affiliation with West Hartlepool rugby club and would often meet up with friends old and new.”

Bill is also survived by Mrs East’s sons, Dylan, 16, and Mason 13, and Mrs Fenwick’s daughters, Kaithlinn, 20, Kaci 16, and Holly, 14.

His funeral service takes place at St Mary’s Church, in Horden, at 11am followed by cremation at Hartlepool Crematorium.

Mourners are afterwards invited to Horden and Peterlee Rugby Club, in Eden Lane, Peterlee , to celebrate his life.