He was a man whose passion for sport inspired generations of young people to follow their dreams.
Bill Parker was revered throughout the local and regional sporting community.
The 68-year-old, from Station Road, East Boldon, passed away on February 17 after five years of battling Alzheimer’s disease.
A service was held last week at the crematorium chapel, where hundreds of people – many whose talents he had helped nurture – turned out to pay their last respects.
His wife of 32 years, Alison, said: “He really did have an amazing send-off, he would have loved it.
“There were so many of his old friends, people he had met through sport were all there.
From the first day we met I knew Bill loved his sport, Sport was his life.Alison Parker
“It really was such a fantastic celebration of his life, and we would like to thank everyone who attended for helping to make it so special.
“When people talk about Bill, how he inspired them, how he helped turn their lives around, as a family it makes us so incredibly proud.”
During his sporting career, Bill, who was a teacher at Mortimer Comprehensive School for 25 years, then later Bow School in Durham, coached and played cricket and rugby.
In the 1974-75 season he was second team captain at Westoe Rugby Club, where he also did a lot of coaching in his early years.
He went on to set up and develop South Tyneside School Boys Rugby, nurturing the talents of many a player.
He also helped develop the talents of cricketers at South Shields Cricket Club and was a prolific batsman during his time at Wood Terrace, playing in the former Durham Senior League.
Mrs Parker added: “Bill believed in excellence and being able to get the best out of people. He would often put them under pressure to push them further.
“People think Bill was just about cricket and rugby, but he knew about football and other sports, it was just that cricket and rugby were his preference.
“He was a committed teacher and nurtured his pupils to be the best they could be.
“During his career, where he coached people like Kieran Bracken, Tony Underwood and Austin Healey, he would often travel to Liverpool and Manchester in his role of coach for North of England.”
Mrs Parker added: “From the first day we met I knew he loved his sport. Sport was his life.”
The couple met at Westoe Rugby and Cricket Club in South Shields in 1980 when Bill, then 32, asked Alison, then 28, to a cricket dinner. The couple married in August 1983, with twins Richard and Elizabeth born in 1985. Tragically Elizabeth died three days later while Richard was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy.
In 1988, son David arrived, completing their family.
Describing herself as a “grass widow”, Alison said she continued to support her husband’s love of sport from the sidelines and from the comfort of her home.
“With two children, it did become a lot harder, so while Bill played his sport, the “grass widows” as we called ourselves would meet up.
“Bill used to be away a lot at weekends, coaching rugby or they’d be at games and in the summer it would be cricket.
“But that was who he was and I knew that when I met him. Luckily, I am the kind of person who doesn’t need her man around 24 hours a day – if I was, we wouldn’t have worked.
“He wanted to pack so much into life and I understood that. We had some great holidays. When he was with us, he was a dedicated father and husband.”
In 2006, Mr Parker took on a fundraising mountain trek in South America in aid of Scope. It was during that event, despite his fitness, he suffered from a pulmonary edema – a lung problem. A further mountain climb saw the same thing happen again, knocking his confidence to try any further expeditions.
In 2011 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which slowly began to affect his quality of life.
The couple enjoyed a final holiday to Canada in 2013, just as the illness started to really take hold.
Mrs Parker said: “At that point we knew he was no longer Bill, he didn’t want to get out of bed and didn’t want to do anything which he had once enjoyed.
“The Alzheimer’s really hit him hard. Bill loved all kinds of music and poetry, he loved beautiful things, but the Alzheimer’s took all that away from him.”
Eventually, Bill left the family home to move into Falstone Court in Sunderland to receive care on January 21.
Three weeks later, with his family by his side, he passed away peacefully.
Bill leaves behind wife Alison, 64, and sons Richard, 30, and David, 28.
To date, £1,000 has been raised through donations for the Alzheimer’s Society.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in Bills memory can do so by donating to Alzheimer’s Society direct or by passing donations on to Mrs Parker.