More than 200 people have lined the streets of Paignton to pay their respects to much-loved Big Issue vendor Tony Lucas at his funeral this afternoon.
The 52-year-old died on February 25 after experiencing a series of health issues following an epileptic fit on his pitch outside Tesco in Paignton town centre.
His death was greeted with an outpouring of emotion at the time, with hundreds of tributes pouring in from all corners of the local community.
Tonight on @itvwestcountry – hundreds of people in #Paignton lined the streets in the town centre to pay tribute to a popular @BigIssue seller, who passed away last month. #RIPTonyLucas pic.twitter.com/RjYDR5XWQg
— Nick Smith (@NickSmithITV) March 18, 2019
And his customers and well-wishers gathered outside the shop and lined the streets this afternoon as the hearse taking him to the Torquay Crematorium went past the place where he sold the magazine for the last 11 years.
The Big Issue’s Devon and Cornwall team leader Steve Carter also spoke at the funeral in tribute to Tony, who had survived the 2005 London 7/7 bombings before he began working on his Paignton pitch, while magazines featuring Tony were also distributed at the service.
Vendors also paid their tributes, with John McKeating travelling from Torbay to attend and even donning his red tabard for the service.
Our vendors buy every copy of the magazine from us for £1.25 and sell it on to you for £2.50. Which is why we ask you to ALWAYS take your copy of the magazine. We believe in trade not aid.
Tony’s family also kindly ran a collection at the service for The Big Issue Foundation, our charitable arm. Local BBC and ITV News stations also covered the funeral.
“Tony’s always been a great ambassador for The Big Issue,” said Steve.
“He liked to promote The Big Issue as well. He would read what was inside it and tell people about it.
“I spoke about The Big Issue and what we do at the service, and how Tony enjoyed selling the magazine – I got some really great feedback. All of his family wanted a copy of the magazine from when he died and I think it underlined how popular he was because he got a full-page tribute in the magazine.
“I couldn’t praise him enough. Today I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the amount of people that are here. Although I am sad that Tony is gone, it was a happy occasion and I’m really chuffed for him.”
Speaking after Tony’s death, his mother Marion Lucas-Moore told The Big Issue that he was a keen fisherman and loved his time selling the magazine.
She said: “We are pleased that most people seemed to speak well of him but we knew that Tony was like that – he knew a lot of people in the town, they all spoke to him and he enjoyed that.
“He’s always been a fairly gentle soul but he did have his problems.
“I’m certain that selling The Big Issue helped him and he used to treat it as a job, he used to call it his work and he used to like the routine of it. I think it made him get out of himself, he liked the people he dealt with and he was quite diligent at the job too.”