The Shields Ferry crew have given an emotional send off to a much-loved colleague who has lost his battle with cancer.
Ray Millward, a Ferry Skipper for 22 years, passed away at the end of April at the age of 70.
Ray’s crew mates formed a special guard of honour at his funeral at South Shields Crematorium on Wednesday 6 May.
The tribute fitted in with all the current social distancing rules which are in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Shields Ferry Manager, Carol Timlin, said: “Ray was a lovely man and a was popular with customers and other members of our crew. We were all deeply saddened to hear that he had passed away and we wanted to ensure that we gave him a good send off.
“He is going to be sorely missed by all of us and our thoughts remain with his family at this difficult time.
“The ferry crew wanted to ensure that they could pay tribute to Ray while abiding by the social distancing rules, so they decided to form a guard of honour at the entrance to South Shields crematorium.
“It was a lovely touch and a very poignant moment. I know that it meant a great deal to Ray’s family.”
Ray retired from his role at the Shields Ferry in 2013 but returned in subsequent years to provide holiday cover during the summer.
Ray is survived by wife Kathy Millward, 68, and three daughters – Julie Skevington, Jane Millward and Kimberley Storm.
He also has five grandchildren – Daisy, Jacob, Amelia, Mae and Matilda.
Daughter Julie said the family has been touched by the number of messages that have poured in following her dad’s passing, from colleagues, friends, and passengers who have known him for years.
Julie said: “Dad loved his job and was very popular with his fellow colleagues. He had the best send-off possible.”
One of Ray’s wishes was to thank the NHS staff at South Tyneside Hospital along with the community nurses and Macmillan nurses who cared for him during his illness.
He wanted to donate hand cream to the teams who have suffered with sore and dry skin due to their frequent hand washing.
The family set up a fundraising page on Facebook called Caring Hands which has raised £1,126 to pay for hand cream from Newcastle company Nursem, who have matched funding, to donate more than £2,000 worth of hand cream.
Julie added: “One of dad’s wishes in hospital was to thank the nurses.
“We hit the fundraising target three days before he died and we were able to tell him. We have ordered the cream and will deliver it to the staff to thank them for their help.”
The photo at Ray’s funeral was taken with the permission of his family.