Beloved Shropshire air ambulance volunteer gets fitting helicopter send-off

A dedicated Shropshire charity volunteer got a fitting send-off when a helicopter representing the charity he gave his time to flew over his funeral service.

The rare gesture was arranged for Tony Soan, who lived in the Market Drayton area and who spent many happy years as a charity shop assistant for the Midlands Air Ambulance.

Mr Soan volunteered at the Wellington shop following his retirement, after previously working doing marketing for agricultural equipment. He carried on volunteering at the shop right up until the March lockdown this year.

When he died aged 86 in October after a short illness, those at the charity felt that in honour of his years of service, a helicopter in air ambulance livery should fly over on the day of the funeral.

One of those who knew Tony well and was delighted the charity was able to pay tribute was Emma Pountney, who worked alongside Tony in the shop for about three and a half years and is now a shop manager.

"We felt it would be fitting for Tony, given he was a long-term volunteer for us," said Emma.

"We know he volunteered for many years, and it was really nice we could get that arranged in time and let the family know he was appreciated.

"It was sad but it was nice we were able to do that.

An Air Ambulance helicopter flew over on the day of Tony's funeral service to mark his years of volunteering. Photo: Josh Sedgley

"He was a delight to work with. He was so kind and approachable.

"He worked with volunteers of all different ages and backgrounds. He was there for the people – he loved asking the customers things.

"Tony was so supportive to myself. He had a lot more worldly experience than me but he was just so respectful.

"He was so encouraging and he gave really good feedback to help build confidence.

"He was so cheeky and he always had a smile on his face. I miss him so much.

"I kept in touch throughout the lockdown – I know he wanted to come back, it's tragic he wasn't able to do that.

"I'm just privileged to have been able to know Tony and have that light in the shop and in all our lives."

Tony was married to the late Margaret Anne Soan, and is survived by Colette and Ash as well as grandchildren Spike and Roxy.

Colette set up a fundraiser for the air ambulance in her father's memory. To learn more and to donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/colette-soan.

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