TributeS have been paid following the death of an inspirational former firefighter who ran Tavistock Fire Station.

The funeral of Chris Neale was held in Tavistock Parish Church with many ex-serving and serving colleagues from Tavistock and local fire stations forming a guard of honour outside on Tuesday November 1.

Chris passed away peacefully on Friday October 14, aged 75. He served in Tavistock for 36 years, including station officer for 13 years, leaving in 2003.

His daughter Kathryn Guy said: ‘Dad joined the fire service aged 19. He adored his role and loved the banter and camaraderie. He retired from the fire service aged 56 and missed it greatly.’

He was married to Phyllis, father also of Robert and grandfather to Ellie, Mia, Liam and Aidan. Also father-in-law to Jackie and Deeps and brother to Lin, Keith and Marie.

Kathryn added: ‘Everyone who knew my Dad was lucky. Kind, funny, thoughtful and generous are just a few of the qualities that made the wonderful man. He was an amazing husband and fantastic dad and a valued and respected colleague to all the firemen who had the privilege of working with him over the years – many of whom became life-long friends.’

He grew up in the town’s Drake Gardens, with parents Rosina and Eric. He was a lorry mechanic for Tate and Lyle for 19 years, working long hours as a young father, while also a fire officer. Next he and Phyllis ran Tavistock Domestic Supplies shop and a market stall, until his health forced them to stop. He then worked part-time for Morris Brothers, leaving in 2019, for health reasons.

Chris and Phyllis met at a Tavistock Town Hall dance and married, aged 22. She donated a kidney to him and cared for him later in life with ‘compassion, care and patience’.

Kathryn said her mother was very supportive of his 24-hour fire service career. During one alert he arrived at the station in his huge fluffy pink pig slippers, or sometimes with his children — Kathryn was on a motorbike ride with her dad when his duty bleeper sounded: ‘We sped like Evel Kneivel down the country roads and through the town. My eyes and nose were streaming by the time we got to the fire station and I was quite shaken up.’

Former colleague Tony Clarke said Chris, who brought him into the fire service, was active in all aspects of station life, operational, mentoring, social, fundraising and twinning, leading to a huge numbers of tributes: ‘Under his leadership I’m proud to have followed his as station officer — a truly hard act to follow.’

Glenn Arundel, current Tavistock station commander, said: ‘Chris was dedicated to Tavistock Fire Station and supporting the community. He always wanted to be on calls. He will be very much missed by his colleagues and friends.’