THE wife of a popular Silchester man who died unexpectedly at home has paid tribute to her “soulmate and hero”.
Father-of-one Gareth Donnelly, a wicketkeeper for Silchester Cricket Club, died on July 9.
The 37-year-old Metropolitan Police officer’s funeral took place in Silchester on Friday, August 4.
Mr Donnelly had survived two open heart surgeries, in 2009 and 2016, which he believed enabled him to meet his baby daughter Matilda, who was born in January.
His wife Amy, 33, said: “He was a very caring and thoughtful man.
“He was my soulmate.
“The evening after I met him at a Christmas party at Legoland I said to a friend ‘I’m going to marry him’ and three years later I did.”
They married on August 13, 2013, in Cyprus, and Sunday was the first anniversary she has spent without him.
Mrs Donnelly went to pay her respects to him and said: “I wanted some time alone with him.
“I left two balloons with him, one from me and the other from Matilda.
“I also took a bottle of Champagne.
“I had a couple of sips, poured some on Gareth and then told him I would be taking the rest home to enjoy.
“He was my hero. He was amazing.
“In 2009 he suffered from testicular cancer. In the same year he had an anurysm in his heart. He should have died.”
Mr Donnelly’s friend of 20 years, Stephen Hallows, said: “It’s not fair that someone like him is gone.
“Someone like him deserves a long life.
“He was well-loved by his friends and family. I respected him. I loved him.”
He added: “He was the first in the world to have this heart surgery.
“He wasn’t meant to survive. We got 10 years out of him that we weren’t meant to.”
Originally from Bolton, Mr Donnelly lived in Silchester for three years.
He played his last game for Silchester Cricket Club on June 10 against Holybourne, a match which his side won by nine wickets.
Writing in the Silchester Magazine on behalf of the cricket club, Marsden Jones said: “All at the club are truly devastated at his untimely death and convey their sincere condolences to Gareth’s wife Amy and her family.”
Mr Donnelly’s funeral was held at St Mary the Virgin Church, Silchester.
As an active member of the Metropolitan Police, he received a full police escort with outriders, while roads were closed as the coffin went into the church and crematorium.
There was also a guard of honour into the church and the police helicopter flew over and performed a salute to his coffin.
More than 300 people attended the funeral, including a flash mob who started singing the Oasis hit Wonderwall, which was picked up by the whole congregation.
A memorial service was also held at St Matthew’s Church, Little Lever, Bolton, on Saturday.
Mrs Donnelly has set up three Justgiving pages in her husband’s memory.
One has raised £1,500 for the British Heart Foundation – www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/garethdonnellybhf.
Another has raised £550 for Help for Heroes – https://www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/garethdonnellyh4h
The third has raised more than £750 for testicular cancer charity – https://www.justgiving.com/ fundraising/ garethdonnellyh4h