Tributes to South Shields music man

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A FAMILY has paid a loving tribute to a great-grandfather who could brighten anyone’s day with his musical talents.

James Frederick Hunter was a keen and gifted keyboard and piano player.

Well-known around the pub and club circuit during the 1960s and 70s under his stage name Derek, he often wowed the crowds with his talents.

But despite having the chance to join a number of bands and travel to foreign countries, the father-of-seven remained loyal to his family.

A former ship worker, he was married to Olive, and the couple lived at The Lonnen.

His wife was often seen sitting by his side as he played the keyboard.

His son Ray Hunter said: “He was a gifted keyboard player. He was able to play from four years old. He had plenty of chances to join bands and go travelling but he chose to stay here with his family.

“He played the keyboards right up until my mam passed away, and then he just started to give it up – he was never the same after my mam died in 2005, and Deka, his son, died earlier this year.”

Mr Hunter was a regular visitor to the Cleadon Club, in Fulwell Avenue, South Shields, prior to his wife’s death at the age of 72.

The couple used to enjoy weekends away to Amble or Berwick.

Mr Hunter suffered from ill health due to obstructive chronic pulmonary disease which he had picked up during his time working in the shipyards, but it didn’t stop him from living life to the full.

Mr Hunter added: “He always lived life to the full, and always had a laugh. He would often, when you were round at his, play a few songs on his keyboard, then two years ago he asked me to put it away, he said he struggled to remember how to play. Then a week before he died he asked me to bring it out again, and he played it like he had years before.”

Mr Hunter died after suffering a heart attack at his home in the early hours of November 23. He was 84.

His son added: “He had been ill with flu just before he died, but getting the phone call from my brother to say to come over as he had had a heart attack, it was just a huge shock.

“He was a great dad who loved his family, he would do anything for any of us. He will be missed by us all.”

A service was held for Mr Hunter at South Shields Crematorium on December 2 where money was raised for The Willows Cat Shelter, as requested by Mr Hunter before his death.

Mr Hunter leaves behind daughters Susan, Linda and Margi, sons Ray, Neil and David, 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Twitter: @shieldsgazlisa