Over 200 people friends and family, many dressed in pink, celebrated the life of Shirley Garman on Friday18 September, a tireless campaigner to raise money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and to raise awareness of the terrible disease which claimed her life at the third time of calling on 7 September.
Loved ones gave personal tributes to a legend amongst women and men in Swindon in the Legends Lounge at Swindon Town Football Club following a private funeral at Kingsdown crematorium.
In 1998 Shirley founded Wiltshire’s Breakthrough Breast Cancer Group and set herself a target of raising £1 million, galvanising people across the town managed to raise over £720,000 for cancer research. The fundraising goes on with a strong Breakthrough committee after Shirley passed on the chair of the group to Paul and Lyn Parfrey when she became too ill to continue in 2008.
Shirley's sister Deb Ball had everybody smiling as she recounted Shirley's life through a slide show which was preceded by the Liverpool FC anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. She was a lifelong supporter of the club and occasionally watched Swindon Town with husband Ralph.
The formal part of the afternoon ended with a rendition of Eric Idle's ironic ditty “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the Monty Python's Life of Brian.
At the end of the presentation, a tearful Ralph said he wanted to thank the nurses at Prospect Hospice and Dr Meadows and staff at Lawns Surgery who cared for Shirley during her illness. "I can’t believe how many people have come it has been absolutely marvellous – she would have loved it.”
Eunice Salmon, coordinator of the Swindon Twin Peaks walking team, said, “Shirley always saw the possibilities in people. You might not have felt capable or organising an event, she would always be there to help and say good things to boost your confidence.
“She said to me many years ago, don’t worry if you didn’t raise a penny for Breakthrough because you’re raising awareness of the charity. Shirley never let her illness get her down and so many people drew strength from her positive outlook. She kick-started so many different activities for Breakthrough, involving hundreds of women and also men. This in turn encourage so many individuals to become more aware of their own health and take action to become fitter.”
Tracey Watt from Grange Park said, "Shirley was loved by so many people. She had this amazing ability to listen and you knew that she really was, and she cared for what you were saying. And you knew that."
Sue O'Connell from Liden was touched by Shirley's warmth. "She was wonderful and always made you think about the things that were really important in life. You always put the trivial things aside when you were talking with Shirley, but she wasn't intense. The discussion was always fun, you came away uplifted and encouraged to do better."
Chris Askew, head of fundraising at Breakthrough Breast Cancer described Shirley as an absolute inspiration. "She was ahead of her time and set an amazing example to others who have become Breakthrough supporters over the last ten years."
Paul Parfrey, said, “in the short time Lynn and I knew her, she gave us the encouragement, drive and determination to help Breakthrough’s vision of a world free from the fear of breast cancer.
“Everyone loved Shirley, she was an inspiration and her spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone who knew her either through Breakthrough or just as a friend. The Wiltshire Breakthrough Group have lost a very dear and much loved icon. It will continue even stronger and determined, to do what Shirley would have wanted in helping beat this dreadful disease."
Below, sending signed balloons to Shirley. Ralph, centre, with family friends and Breakthrough Breast Cancer supporters