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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

'You were and are my best friend. See you soon': Widow's tribute to shark-attack victim at church where they wed just three weeks ago

-The Queen song You're My Best Friend played before burial in the church

By Stephanie Darrall

Devastated: Gemma Redmond attends the funeral of her husband Ian who was tragically killed on their honeymoon

The widow of honeymoon shark attack victim Ian Redmond today gave a heartfelt tribute at his funeral to her 'darling husband' - 'my soul mate and best friend'.

Grief-stricken Gemma Redmond, 27, told the hundreds of mourners at her family's local church: 'I've said it before and I'll say it again - you were and are my best friend.'

The primary school teacher was shaking as she went into St Michael's Church in Dalton, Lancashire, where they were married three weeks ago but composed herself to give a lengthy dedication.

'I promise you will never ever be forgotten and I will miss you so very much. You, above all people, knew how hard I found it to say goodbye to others and so I know you will understand if I don't say it. What I will say instead is 'See you soon!'. I'm looking forward to it so very much.'

Heartbreaking: A lone piper leads a procession carrying Ian's coffin into the church where he was recently married

Tributes: Messages of condolence are left by the hotel where the couple stayed and the British High Commission

Up to 300 people packed the church for the service conducted by the Rev Tim Barton as around 200 more mourners stood outside within the grounds and listened to the service on loudspeakers.

She recalled her wedding day, which was 'quite simply the most wonderful day of my life', and then remembered their honeymoon.

'We were having such a happy time,' she said. "It was a lovely adventure and we were enjoying experiencing new things.

'We felt so at peace, so relaxed and were so excited about the future. It was truly romantic

'Each and every time you went swimming and snorkelling and I watched you, I could never quite believe that I was married to you.

'You were the most handsome and perfect man I have ever seen and I always longed for you to come back out of the sea and be back with me.'

She continued: 'We could talk about anything and everything with each other - laugh, cry or just be quiet.

'You completed me and are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Pain: Gemma is clasped tightly by her parents David and Coleta Houghton

Outside the church: Just three weeks ago Ian and Gemma Redmond were celebrating their wedding day

Smiling newlywed's Ian and Gemma on a beach in the Seychelles during their honeymoon, days before the fatal attack

'Whilst I cannot believe that you are gone, I am in shock and hurting so very much.

I am comforted and consoled by the rich tapestry of our memories that we formed over our nine years together. Thank you.

'All my love now, forever and always, your wife, Gemma'

A lone bagpipe player had led the procession inside as Mrs Redmond followed behind, clasped tightly by her parents David and Coleta Houghton.

Mr Redmond's parents, Stephen and Corinne, and his brother Paul brought up the rear.

The venue was the same setting as their wedding earlier this month.

Just 10 days after the ceremony, while on honeymoon in the Seychelles, the IT specialist was savaged by a shark as he swam in the waters off Anse Lazio beach on Praslin, the second largest island in the archipelago.

The 30-year-old was quickly brought to shore where a French surgeon, also on holiday, gave first aid on the beach as his new wife looked on.

But it is thought Mr Redmond, formerly from Nelson, Lancashire, simply lost too much blood due to the massive injuries suffered in the attack on August 16.

His death was the second fatal shark attack at the destination in a month. A 36-year-old French tourist was killed by a shark in the same area two weeks before.

The couple were due to set up home in Skelmersdale on their return in a cottage that Mr Redmond had refurbished.

Mrs Redmond said her husband was referred to by his work colleagues in Leyland as the 'Gold Standard' of software developers because of his dedication to work.

'But you were also the Gold Standard of men - always smiling, always finding time for the family and friends that you loved so dearly, you were never cross, just kind,' she said.

'Above all, you were the Gold Standard of husbands. Amazing, courageous, inspiring, entertaining, patient and loving.'

Mrs Redmond's father David placed a symbol during the service of his son-in-law's tool belt - used to mark his commitment and endeavour in renovating the cottage where they planned to live.

The Queen song You're My Best Friend played before committal took place in the church graveyard

Honeymoon destination: Anse Lazio beach (left) where the attack took place. Right, a shark killed by hunters which is believed to be responsible for the attack

Memorial service: Members of the island's close-knit community held a service in remembrance for the IT specialist from Lancashire

Readings were given by Mr Redmond's cousin Claire Redman (After Glow by Helen Lowrie Marshall) and his friends David Snodgrass and William Spencer (Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland).

Two tributes were read out, one entitled Ian's Life from his parents and the other A Letter To My Husband from his widow.

Father Michael Howarth, who was priest at Holy Saviours RC Church in Nelson where Mr Redmond was an altar boy, read out his parents' tribute on their behalf.

The former Fisher More High School pupil and Nelson and Colne College student excelled in his exams before he went on to gain a honours degree in computer science from the University of Manchester.

It was there in his final year that he met his future wife.

'On Christmas Eve 2009 Ian romantically proposed marriage to Gemma,' the priest said. 'Kneeling on the doorstep of Gemma's family home in Dalton with a bottle of champagne, a red rose and a giant simulated engagement ring.
'The answer was most certainly 'yes'.'

They shared their news at midnight mass at the church where they were to wed and then the search for their dream home commenced, Fr Howarth said.

Mr Redmond threw himself into refurbishing a shell of a Grade II-listed building into a complete home after learning demolition skills, drawing the plans together and doing the plumbing, joinery, electricals and decorating.

Following the restoration, they moved into their new home on their wedding night.

'The cottage is a dream home," said the priest. "It is a magnificent testiminonial to his work and vision which will stand the test of time.'

The keen Burnley FC fan had a wide range of active interests including climbing rocks and boulders, and road cycling.

Fr Howarth said he was 'smart, athletic, with boundless energy and a ready smile on his face'.

'He enriched so many lives," he added.

'He would undoubtedly say his greatest achievement was to have been married to Gemma, whom he loved so very much.'



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