Tragically on Sunday 19th April 2009 Jeremy lost his life, suffering a heart attack after a game of soccer at Lake Sylvan, Orlando Florida. He leaves behind the love of his life Mary Jo, and three children, Alix, Sophie and Jack.
I have been very blessed to be able to call Jeremy a friend for the past few years, a blessing I know that many people here are glad to have shared.
When I first met Jeremy it was immediately apparent that we shared many of the same experiences as younger men, including football, music and where we had grown up to name but a few.
We spent lots of time talking about the olden days of Friday nights out after work, going to the match on a Saturday-or trying to catch the results in the window of Reddifusion when the lads were away, playing sports in the snow and rain, a curry on the way home then falling asleep on the night service; that type of thing. The conversations were always alive with characters and color, vivid memories from a man who had really enjoyed and made the most of growing up with great family and great friends. I always cherished the chance to talk with Jeremy as did a lot of you here today, and it is a shared loss that we won’t have that chance again.
But we do have the opportunity to take heart from the memories of those times, times that are now more precious than we may have realized, and forever reserve a place in our hearts for the smile, warm welcome, intelligent insight, wit and banter that made Jeremy so special. It would be remiss of me to stand here without talking about Jeremy the footballer, and whilst I acknowledge he was a first class cricketer, and raconteur, I know his first love was kicking a pigs bladder around (but enough of his run-ins with the police in Manchester).
I have a photo of Jeremy playing in the Memorial Cup last year heading the ball, it’s kind of blurry and he is on his tip toes with the opposition two or three feet in the air all around him, and although he knew it would never make the cover of Four-Four-Two, he was proud of that photo, proud that he had won the ball; beaten if only for a instant, men half his age, and despite any question marks over his aerial prowess, Jeremy knew that for that moment he was on top. Memories of Terry Butcher with his head in bandages or Stuart Pearce putting the penalty demon to bed against Spain in ‘96 flashing through one’s mind, all when the boy from Staffordshire made that little patch of Apopka his own. I was so pleased that it brought him joy, he deserved it. It’s therefore so very bittersweet that a man who loved the beautiful game so much, would spend his last hours on the pitch.
And a man with a simpler approach to the game couldn’t be found. In Jeremy’s words and I quote, ‘Look for the people wearing the same colored shirts as you, look for the one who is nearest and has space around him, give him the ball’. After a few pints it became apparent that there was actually more to it than that, and that Robson and Venebles missed out by favoring Gascoigne to boss the English midfield over the ‘Hednesford Harrier’, but the sentiment was always clear, do the simple things well and everything else will take care of itself.
And what is the simplest thing? Love? Love for family, love for friends. Those of us who knew him best saw that love had taken him to a new level in the past couple of years. A renewed and invigorated Jeremy basking in the relationship that he and Mary-Jo had created, being marveled by Jack, Sophie and Alix on a daily basis. Like the proverbial ‘duck to water’ Jeremy had fully embraced all of the responsibilities and duties required of him to be involved so closely with such a wonderful family. Discussions of the weekend’s games took up a lot less of our regular lunches, the talk was more about the future than the past, the planned vacations, the homework, the growing pains and best of all, the opportunities. I think that Jeremy finally felt complete, taking pleasure in shaping the new pieces of his puzzle; making it all fit.
Mary-Jo, Jack, Sophie, Alix, he adored you all, you opened up a very special place for him and I know he would like me to thank you for that on his behalf. Again it so bittersweet. We are all going to share memories today, and we all feel a common sense of loss and confusion over why he was taken away. The pain of the loss will be with us for some time, but it will subside, the joy that Jeremy brought to us all will wash it away. So as I eluded to earlier; let’s hang on to that joy and carry it with us, keeping the memory, the very soul of a good friend alive long after today, he would’ve done the same for any one of us. Cheers Jez.