Widower plans cycling tribute for West Berkshire balloonist
A widower is planning to take part in the London to Brighton Cycle Ride this year in honour of his deceased husband, a Hermitage balloonist with a national reputation.
Tony Byrne died in September last year, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
He was renowned both locally and in the national ballooning community, helping many children touch the skies in regular hot air balloon outings.
A Hermitage pub, The Fox Inn, has erected a plaque in his memory and he was once honoured with an engraved tankard by the Newbury Show's organisers.
David Bellinger, Mr Byrne's partner for decades, will be completing a cycling marathon in September 2021, around the anniversary of his husband's passing.
He has started a JustGiving page, and will be donating all proceeds to the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund.
The appeal has already far exceeded Mr Bellinger's initial target.
Mr Byrne was well-regarded in Hermitage, and his funeral drew in dozens of villagers, who let off balloons in a large-scale tribute to the man.
He led an eventful life, seeking to raise public awareness around ballooning as a skill and hobby.
An engineer by trade, he actually designed his own balloons.
The Dawn Treader – one of his creations – was a familiar sight over Newbury and Thatcham.
At the time of his passing, he was one of the only active balloonists in the West Berkshire area.
Mr Bellinger said of his husband: "He was a bit like Tintin!
"He liked to instil in others what he called the 'pure magic' of ballooning.
"He'd do anything to get anyone involved.
"He trained up two of the Imperial College balloon team to become pilots.
"He was very much respected for his understanding of meteorology.
"He always used to say that the biggest skill in being a pilot is knowing when not to fly.
"If we were at balloon meetings and it came down to decisions about whether to fly or whether to not, people used to wait until Tony made his decision, and, more often than not, copy him."
Mr Byrne was originally from Portslade, West Sussex.
He had lived in Hermitage since 1992 and had been a West Berkshire resident since the 1970s.
Mr Bellinger's ride kicks off on September 19.