'There's only one Bill Bell': Mourners gather in Burslem to pay final respects to former Port Vale chairman (video)
FORMER Port Vale chairman Bill Bell was given a final tour of the club he loved before mourners said a final farewell.
The cortege drove around the pitch at Vale Park yesterday before embarking on a tour of businesses owned by the charismatic entrepreneur.
Relatives, friends, colleagues and Vale staff past and present then packed out Burslem's Swan Bank Methodist Church for a service to celebrate Mr Bell's life.
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Reverend Jeff Short, who led the funeral, said: "It is a privilege and an honour to stand here.
"I was one of the thousands of Port Vale fans who paid tribute to him in the game against Morecambe where we sang 'there's only one Bill Bell'. There could only be one. A businessman, a football man and a family man."
The congregation included former Port Vale manager John Rudge with ex Valiants players Dean Glover and Mark Grew.
The club's chaplain Reverend John Hibberts, who Mr Bell appointed to the role, said: "I first met Bill in the early 1990s and straight away I felt his passion for the Vale which was never in question."
And Mr Hibberts revealed the generosity which the Scotia Road-born car dealer showed to those he knew.
He added: "In 2000 I suffered a brain bleed during a game at Port Vale and was taken to hospital.
"Bill came to see me and said he would get me a helicopter which would take me to any hospital I wanted if I required intensive care.
"He was a great personality and a character. He was once seen and never forgotten and always made his mark. It was a pleasure to know him."
Mr Bell, who was chairman of Port Vale from 1987 until 2002, lost his battle with cancer at his home in Brown Edge on February 12 after being diagnosed with the illness the previous November.
Other tributes paid at the service included those from the 81-year-old's grandchildren, Katie and James.
Katie wrote: "When I think of my grandad a number of words come to mind – a gentleman, stubborn, determined but most of all brave.
"He was always up for a deal and I remember when I was eight he bet me £5 to eat a sugar cube.
"I ate it and told him I would do two more for £10. From that day he knew he had met his match."
Grandson James wrote: "I remember the trips to Toys R Us he would take me on and going out on the quad bikes in the fields.
"You always made me feel special at birthdays and at Christmas time.
"The world lost a big character when you died."
Following the service the congregation went to Vale Park for refreshments.
Donations will be given to Cancer Research UK.