Family and friends have gathered to say goodbye to a Barnstaple ambulance worker and fundraiser who made the most of every minute of the last years of his life.
Keith Regan lost his six-year battle with terminal cancer on August 21 but in that time, with the help of his wife Janet, family and friends, he was able to complete a large bucket list as well as do so much for local charities.
His funeral was held on Friday, September 18 at North Molton church and saw Keith arrive on a fire engine past an honour guard of ambulance service colleagues, his coffin decorated with pictures of vehicles he had worked with or loved during his life.
He leaves his children from his first marriage, Wayne, Kristian and Tara and his children with Janet - Luke and Chloe - as well as four grandchildren.
Last year in full kit the former Berkshire fire fighter climbed the equivalent of the World Trade Centre –110 floors – inside the building next door to the site of the terror attack in New York for hospital charity Over & Above.
Janet said after his diagnosis they decided to turn a negative into a positive, find new treatments and sort out a bucket list. She said: “ Over the next six years…. Yes, years not months, Keith and I decided this was not going to beat us and we were going to fight as hard as we could, make as many memories as we could and defy the odds.
“Keith told me to say (in his words) ‘I often used to say to Jan, I can’t do this and Jan would say you can, I’m right behind you. I called her my rock, I couldn’t have done it without her’.”
Keith was an emergency care assistant with South Western Ambulance Service from 2003 to 2017 and stayed on in a bank role until November 2018, while continuing to work for the NHS at North Devon District Hospital up until last year.
As well as a number of fire fighting roles in Berkshire, he also served as a special constable in Hampshire and again when the family moved to North Devon.
The family crammed a great deal into their time together, including trips around Britain, to the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Greece and the Canaries as well as London shows, the poppy fields of France and Belgium, watching a volcano erupting, parascending and much more.
Speaking at the funeral, Janet added: “I do not think Keith would have got through this without the support and love of his family, colleagues, health professionals especially his doctor Guy Cockcroft, the church and community here at North Molton, North Devon Athletics Club and many friends surrounding him.
“On behalf of Keith I would like to thank you all for being a part of his life in whatever way however large or small.”
A tribute on behalf of his former colleagues said: “The news of Keith passing away has brought great sadness to us.
“Our thoughts and sincere wishes go out to his family at this difficult time and to his former colleagues who will miss his infectious laughter. His legacy will be his amazing fundraising efforts since his diagnosis, which received fantastic support from the local community.”
Julie Whitton at Over & Above said: “Keith was a friend, a wonderful colleague and he was dedicated and enthusiastic in his fundraising for our Cancer and Wellbeing Fern Centre Appeal, and inspired us all when he and his wife Janet climbed 110 floors of the New York One World Trade Centre.
“Keith will be much missed by us all and our sincere thoughts go to his family and friends.”
Ali Hunt, from North Devon Hospice, said that Keith was an extraordinary man who did so much to help the cause: “It’s a measure of the man that even after his diagnosis, he was more determined than ever to do what he could to support others.
“I’ll never forget Keith, well into his cancer journey, crossing the finish line at our Mission:Unbreakable commando challenge with nearly 50 of his friends and colleagues. It was truly remarkable.
“Keith and his family have been cared for throughout his illness by the hospice team, and Keith’s amazing fundraising efforts will ensure that other families can benefit from this same care during their hour of need. It is an incredible legacy to leave.”