Family and friends of Joey McCoy, from Shawbury, have spoken of a funny, charming, and generous character – who had the ability to entertain, surprise, shock and infuriate in equal measure.
Joey, who took his own life last month, had a host of interests, from sport to animals, and from music to cars – and was as well-known as he was popular, with hundreds of people expected to turn out for his funeral later this month.
The 20-year-old Shrewsbury rugby player had stepped up to help another family facing their own tragedy, when his friend and team-mate Dylan Price was killed in an as-yet unsolved hit and run in Bishop's Castle in 2021.
Joey set up a fundraiser to support Dylan's family, aiming to raise £100, with the eventual total reaching a staggering £18,487.
Speaking to the Shropshire Star back in 2021 Joey had told how he had wanted to do something to help – describing Dylan as "like a little brother to me".
Joey's mum, Karen Colley, his step-father Grant Colley, his sister Atlanta and her fiance Joe Tilsley, and friend Jack Todman, have all spoken of their memories of "a lad who left his mark on everyone" – and called for people to speak up if they are experiencing mental health crisis.
They have described a true character, who was always joking, and packed as much as possible into his 20 years – after beating the odds early in life, when he was resuscitated at just 15 days old, having been born with three holes in his heart.
Karen said her son was a charmer who "would wrap you round his little finger", adding that he was equally happy to wind her – or anyone else - up, and was always looking to live life with a laugh.
Born in Spain, Joey supported both Everton Football Club and the country of his birth.
He had attended Coleham Primary, Featherbed Lane Juniors, Thomas Adams and Shrewsbury College, where he studied PE and then rugby.
He played as a prop for Shrewsbury, and had played football all his life, turning out as a goalkeeper for Shawbury and The New Saints.
He was a keen DJ, who travelled across the country to play drum & bass and jungle music at clubs, and loved animals, having snakes, lizards, frogs, and fish as pets, and even his own hawk named Wrecker.
Karen and Grant said he also loved cars and was a member of the 10pm Club, a Shropshire car group.
They explained how he was so eager to rack up the miles after passing his driving test that he even left them with a hefty and unexpected bill.
Grant said: "He was such a character. As part of the insurance for his car he had to have a tracker and I had it put through to my e-mail so I could see how many miles he was doing.
"I looked at it and it showed zero miles and I knew he had been to college, and here and there, so I asked him and he had taken the tracker off – and we found out he had done another 6,000 miles so we had to pay a fine!"
Karen explained how when she and Grant had got married in Cyprus in 2019 Joey had been desperate to visit the main strip in Ayia Napa – an ambition that was successful but ended with the newly-married couple finding him collapsed flat-out in their own wedding bed.
Grant said: "He was always up to something and you could never say no to him. He was always trying to make money – even at school he was selling bacon sandwiches."
Atlanta added: "At secondary school he would make mum go to buy all the sweets from Bookers and he would sell them at school."
Jack said: "Every day at college with him you would not stop laughing. Every day he would come late and he would have some rubbish excuse for the teacher.
"We were all very close. Me, Jack and Dylan were on the same course and when I got the news I had lost Dylan, Joey was the first one to help me.
"I struggled quite a bit with mental health after that and Joey was always there for me after that.
"I just want to thank him for all he did for Dylan's family and all Dylan's mates – you can't put into words what he did. He was proper down to earth, always concerned about people. He was a truly irreplaceable friend.
"You would go through town with him and every corner you went round it would be someone else Joey knew. You would stop 10 times going from one place to the next, it used to drive me up the wall."
Karen said she does not think they will ever come to terms with the loss and urged anyone suffering with similar struggles to speak up.
She said: "It is just an empty space, it is so hard. I just want everyone to know how lovely he was and what a waste it is."
She added: "I am lucky I had 20 years of Joey. I feel for these poor lads, his friends, they are amazing and I am so thankful that Joey has so many amazing friends."
Atlanta said: "Everyone would rather hear you talk and your struggles than have to organise and go to your funeral."
Jack added: "Just anyone who feels like that – speak to someone. I would rather have my mate – not matter how strong, how macho – crying on my shoulder than cry carrying their coffin. No one, and especially Joey, he had so much going for him."
Jack has also dedicated a fundraising charity effort to climb the three peaks in July, which was originally planned to raise money for mental health support, to his friend instead – with the current total of £4,137 already well exceeding his £200 target.
The funds raised will be used to give Joey a fitting send-off at his funeral.
The funeral will take place at Shrewsbury Crematorium from 4.20pm on Friday, March 31.
Jack said that Joey's rugby club teammates and friends would be forming a guard of honour in tribute.
Karen said that anyone who wishes to pay their respects is invited to attend – but to wear bright colours.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the fundraising can do so by visiting gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-a-truly-amazing-friend.