FRIENDS of Southampton pensioner Ken Holmes were determined to give him the send-off he deserved.

Despite his quiet and unassuming nature the 68-year-old widower was renowned for making a big impression on everyone who met him.

Fellow regulars at The Hinkler pub in Hinkler Road, Thornhill, were devastated when he died at his home in nearby Gilpin Close.

He was not well off and friends feared he would be given a pauper’s funeral paid for by the state.

The prospect of a basic, no-frills service filled the community with dismay and sparked a fundraising campaign led by two of the people who knew him best, Nina Pourou and David Lewis.

It raised a total of £2,250 - enough to pay for a fitting farewell at the Wessex Vale Crematorium in Bubb Lane, West End.

Music played at the funeral included a selection of Ken’s favourite songs, including Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

The service was followed by a day-long wake at The Hinkler, with people of all ages sharing their memories of Ken and celebrating his life.

Regulars arriving at the event found his seat at the bar had been turned into a shrine to the popular pensioner.

Nina, of Thornhill, said: “Ken was a lovely man - everyone liked him.

“He lived in Thornhill for many years and visited The Hinkler every day, even when he was ill. He wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol for three months but still went in for a Coke or a coffee.”

Ken’s body was found by a friend who went round to his flat to make sure he was all right.

Nina said: “We were worried he’d have to have a pauper’s funeral and we didn’t want that - we loved him.”

The funeral was conducted by the Rev Duncan Jennings, vicar of St Christopher’s Church in Pepys Avenue, Thornhill.

He said: “I knew Ken from my visits to The Hinkler - he was always sitting in his seat at the end of the bar.

“He was a lovely chap. Despite being very quiet and unassuming he made an impression on everyone and his death was felt very hard by people living the area.

“The way they made sure all the funeral arrangements were taken care of was a beautiful example of the community coming together.

“It was a wonderful illustration of people caring for one another, which is one of the features of Thornhill as a whole.

“The funeral itself was lovely, with a very good turnout.

“We deliberately planned a simple service because we felt it was a true reflection of the man. He didn’t like a lot of fuss and attention.”

Ken lived in Middlesbrough before moving to Thornhill about 20 years ago. His wife Gloria died in the 1990s and he also lost a son.

Mr Jennings said: “He never talked about himself - he was a very self-contained man.”

Southampton resident Claire Whalley added: “My dad used to drink with Ken but I didn’t know him all that well myself.

“For me it was all about community spirit and the way everyone came together after he died. The pub and the patrons really pulled out all the stops.

“Ken was a lovely man. He didn’t say a lot but he was always so welcoming. He was a pillar of The Hinkler.”

Talking about the day his body was discovered she added: “People hadn’t seen Ken for four days and everyone was worried about him.

“After that people took it upon themselves to contact the authorities and make all the necessary arrangements for his funeral.”

Close friend David Lewis, 54, added: “Ken was one of those people you could always talk to.”