Funeral tributes to 'Tin Can Man' John Leese who raised £360k for Douglas Macmillan Hospice
MOURNERS said a final farewell to a tireless fund-raiser who dedicated more than 20 years of his life to supporting a charity.
A guard of honour was formed outside St Mark's Church yesterday for the funeral of John Leese who was known as the 'Tin Can Man'.
And the memory of his long-standing campaign to raise cash for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice continued as a collection plate for the charity was placed inside the Shelton church.
Reverend Keith Haywood, who led the service, said: "He will be sorely missed by many but remembered warmly and affectionately by all."
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The 86-year-old, who died at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) on February 6 after contracting pneumonia, raised more than £360,000 for the Blurton-based hospice by heading out with a collection tin.
His efforts saw him made an MBE in 2006 before landing the Editor's Special Award at The Sentinel's Our Heroes evening a year later.
John began his marathon fund-raising drive in 1990 after his wife Olwen lost her battle with breast cancer and died at the hospice.
The congregation heard that John had promised his wife he would support the hospice in the time leading up to her death.
Reverend Cecil Mann, former minister of Hamil Road Methodist Church, where the couple had worshipped, said: "It was a rare privilege to know a man like John Leese.
"When I came to Hamil Road in the 1980s I got to know John and Olwen and the whole church was saddened when she was diagnosed with cancer.
"She spent the last six weeks of her life at the Douglas Macmillan Hospice and after she died John came to me to talk about raising money.
"He said she had so many lovely clothes and asked if we could put on some kind of fashion sale with the proceeds going to the hospice. That raised £1,000 and from there he just kept fund-raising."
Before his death John had selected both of the hymns for his funeral – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended.
As his coffin was led into the church – the same venue where John was baptised and later married – volunteers from the Red Cross formed a guard of honour.
During the service, Mr Haywood also revealed that John, who served in the RAF, had a real passion for ballroom dancing.
He said: "He met his wife in 1948 at the Majestic Ballroom in Hanley. Dancing was really part of his life and he went on to win many trophies with Olwen."
Friend Terry Bagguley, who runs Terry's Bar in Hanley Indoor Market, said: "It was an honour to have known John. We will remember him as someone you could always talk to."
Representatives from the Douglas Macmillan also read Linda Ellis's poem, The Dash, during the service.
Following the funeral a ceremony was held at Carmountside Crematorium.