DARREN Wayne Rickard could not help but leave an indelible mark on all those who had the privilege of his company.
So it was no surprise when hundreds of mourners flocked to St Paul’s Anglican Church on Thursday to bid him the fondest of final farewells.
The church could not accommodate the phalanx of friends and family – dressed on request in colourful clothes rather than the traditional black – such was his appeal.
Mr Rickard died on January 11 – his birthday – at the age of 47 after a courageous 16-month battle against a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.
His wife Janelle and children Scott, 22, and Kirsti, 19, said they had been “overwhelmed” at the outpouring of love since his passing at Tamworth hospital.
“We knew the person he was, but to find out that thousands of other people knew what he was like too was really special,” said Kirsti.
Born in Tamworth on January 11, 1967 to Darrell and Aileen, Mr Rickard was schooled at Tamworth South Primary School and then Tamworth High School.
In 1984, he started work at the Jack the Slasher supermarket where he and Mrs Rickard, who had gone through school just a year apart but never knew each other, finally connected – literally.
“Dad had noticed mum for a few weeks and he was there one day trying to impress her, so he jumped on a pallet jack and decided to ride it down the aisle,” Scott said.
“But he completely misjudged it and crashed into Mum and knocked her off her feet. He was too embarrassed to stop and help her.
“It wasn’t for another few weeks that he plucked up the courage to apologise and ask her out.”
This endearing mischievous streak never left Mr Rickard, a keen fisherman and lover of the outdoors who worked at TPE in Tamworth, even after his cancer diagnosis in September 2012.
Determined to defy the odds, the Rickards raised more than $60,000 to fund two visits to Germany for radiation treatment unavailable in Australia.
Despite numerous treatments and an unwavering positive attitude, Mr Rickard’s health declined and he was admitted to Nioka Palliative Care Unit in October last year.
It was the compassionate care Mr Rickard received while there that inspired the family to donate money raised at the funeral to the Friends of Nioka group.
Mrs Rickard said the family wished to thank the staff of Nioka Palliative Care Unit and Tamworth Hospital’s Ward Three, Margaret Tarbert and Fletcher Brothers Funerals and Calala Inn for their support.