You were the best
By Adrian Miller
As the mourners gathered around the casket of Mark Stoker to pay their last respects, the howling wind settled down as though it knew why they had come.
Yesterday in the tree-lined surroundings of the Townsend Lawn Ceremony, over 100 people said good-bye to the family man, good friend and 'all round good bloke', who passed away last week aged 36 after a long battle with cancer.
Designed to embrace the wishes of Mr Stoker and wife Cindy, the ceremony's beauty was in its simplicity.
Unfortunately Cindy, who has terminal cancer, was unable to attend the ceremony.
Clarence MP Steve Cansdell spoke about Mr Stoker's humility, his strength of character and his love for his wife and children.
It was a common theme.
"He met Cindy, the love of his life at 21 and he gave her everything," one speaker said.
"When Cindy fell pregnant he was so excited at the prospect of being a father and he was so proud of his daughters."
People spoke about his 'special relationship' with each of his four daughters, and they in turn spoke about their love for him.
"Dad was the best dad in the world," one daughter said.
"He never backed down and did everything he could for his family."
Friends spoke of his great skill as a 'Mr Fix-it' and always being there for people.
A great fisherman, tales were told of how he somehow always came home with the biggest fish.
But one of Mr Stoker's greatest qualities was his strength.
Family spoke of how he tackled challenges, especially his brain tumour, head-on when first diagnosed in 2002.
They talked about how he still found time for others ? like in the 2001 floods when he helped everyone he could even though most of his family's possessions were lost.
"He was someone who was irreplaceable," one friend said.
"No one came close to Mark ? you were the best."