HUNDREDS of mourners in Swansea have said an emotional farewell to “a true gentleman in every sense of the word”.
Paul Popham was diagnosed with kidney cancer in October 2008 and given just nine months to live but with the love and support of his family and friends he refused to give in.
The father of four and grandfather of five from Llangyfelach fought the condition and NHS red tape — after he was initially refused life-prolonging treatment — to prove the doctors wrong and enjoy another four years with his beloved family and St Joseph’s Football Club, which he had been involved with since being a boy.
Married to Cheryl, the 65-year-old former Alcoa worker, who also battled kidney disease for over half his life, passed away last week.
In a touching address, at the packed service in Morriston Crematorium yesterday, his daughter Joanne said: “Dad was our hero. We miss him with every second of every day but he will always be in our hearts. He led a full life and never once complained.
“Dad was all about love. He loved everyone and always saw the best in everyone. It was never a trade off for anything else, it was just given freely.
“We had a constant joke in our family over who he loved the most, it went like this, there was football and there was God, the rest of us ranked depending upon who had eaten his chocolate that day. He would often tease us who was his favourite child and would whisper to us - you’re my favourite. All of us knew that he had no favourite and he loved us all for who we were.”
Of his years spent battling illness, first kidney disease and then cancer, she added: “He loved life so much that nothing, absolutely nothing, stood in his way.
“Even after his first kidney transplant, despite being told not to play football, he would put on his kit if the team was short and say, ‘Don’t tell Cheryl’.”
Mr Popham’s other daughter Claire (he also has sons Matthew and Christopher) wrote a poem, entitled The Best Man That Ever Lived, for her dad which was also read out.
The family has been inundated by messages and cards of sympathy since Mr Popham’s death — many through his love of football.
A spokeswoman for the family wanted to thank all for their support saying: “It makes it easier for us that we have memories, he loved everyone and the people that he met will always remember him.”
Les Evans, a life member of Swansea Senior League, said: “I have always known Paul to be a true gentleman and an inspiration to other aspiring young players. What he did for St Joseph’s football club over so many years cannot be quantified, he would always be on hand to advise and help in his own inimitable way.
“People often talk about how characters in football are now few and far between, in past years Swansea has had their fair share of these characters and I can say without contradiction Paul was up there with the best. His passing will leave a massive void for many people especially his family to whom my sincere sympathies along with every member of the Swansea Senior League are extended.
“I wonder whether we will ever see the like of Paul again, A true gentleman in every sense of the word .”
A former co-worker of Mr Popham’s said: “He was a lovely guy, he would do anything for anyone. He was as good as gold, the absolute best.”