SOUTHEND’S civic church, St Mary’s, was packed with hundreds of friends, family and colleagues of community hero Garry Lowen at a special celebration of his life and work.

Businessman Garry, 63, served his city unstintingly as a fundraiser, charity patron, Rotarian and event planner. He died last month after a brave battle with motor neurone disease.

Southend mayor Kevin Robinson and MP Anna Firth joined all those who knew and respected Garry – who was recently made a Freeman of Southend - to give thanks for his devoted service to the city.

A lone standard bearer from Southend Royal British Legion led the way as Garry’s coffin was carried into the church, followed by close family and friends.

The congregation – which was asked to avoid wearing black - sang the hymns Autumn Days and the remarkably upbeat Lord of the Dance, which characterised Garry’s energy and positivity.

Read more >> Southend community pays tribute to Garry Lowen 

Wife Penny and daughter Laura paid emotional tributes to Garry, emphasising their enduring love for a man who always gave his best and served his community with honour and distinction.

Punctuated with humorous anecdotes, Penny referenced Garry’s nonexistent DIY skills and pointed to two incidents in recent weeks – a water main issue outside Gleneagles guest house – which the couple owned – and a broken door entry system which, she said, was probably Garry sending a message.

Garry’s oldest friend, Jon Ingle, took the congregation through a tour of Garry’s life. He referenced Echo articles, including our front page of flags at half mast in tribute, and the many comments about his outstanding contribution, with one individual describing Garry as a mentor and father figure.

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York – who went to school with Garry at Belfairs in Leigh – sent a touching message, recalling life at school and how they re-connected many years after they first met when Mr Cottrell became Bishop of Chelmsford.

They had corresponded when Mr Cottrell left to become Archbishop of York.

Family and friends were keen to emphasise their thanks and praise for the compassionate, outstanding care at Fair Havens Hospice in Southend, where Garry spent his final days