Gary Richards - one of the Wrekin Rowers - dies, aged 57

Gary Richards, one of a team of four who just over one year ago completed a 3,000 mile row across the Atlantic, has died. He was aged 57.

Gary Richards. Picture: Wrekin Rowers
Gary Richards. Picture: Wrekin Rowers

As a part of the Wrekin Rowers he helped raise more than £120,000 for the RNIB and Severn Hospice and his death has been marked by an outpouring of sadness on social media.

In a statement across social media the Wrekin Rowers announced that Mr Richards lost his fight for life on January 24. A problem he had first spotted on the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge turned out to be terminal duodenal cancer.

The Wrekin Rowers team of Stuart Richards, Stuart Shepherd, Gary Richards, and Martin Skehan. Picture: Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge

"During the last couple of days of our row, Gary stated he thought he had pulled a stomach muscle. This got worse after we finished, and when Gary returned to the UK, he was diagnosed with duodenal cancer giving him a life expectation of 3-4 months."

But it added that Gary fought the disease.

"Gary, being the strong and determined man that he was, fought this dreadful disease much longer than expected, allowing him to see his younger brother Stuart - also one of the team - get married, carry the Commonwealth Games baton, again with Stuart, and to spend one final Christmas day with his family."

Gary was an "extremely well known and liked personality in the Telford area where he lived."

Three of the four Wrekin Rowers after their epic adventure Picture L>R: Gary Richards, Stuart Richards and Stuart Shepherd..

The statement added: "Whilst never afraid to stand up for himself and his family, what shone through to everyone who knew him was his caring and kind personality.

"Combined with his determination to succeed in whatever he did, Gary was one of those rare people that just made things happen and helped other people along the way.

"It is a small comfort that one of the final things Gary took part in was a wonderful adventure doing something crazy and supported by so many people when he was doing it."

Severn Hospice was one of the charities that the Wrekin Rowers raised money for.

The statement added: "We never expected that one of our own team would need to make use of the wonderful care they offer our community so soon.

"We would like to thank them for everything they have done for Gary during his last weeks with us."

Gary is survived by his partner Alyson, his brothers Dave and Stuart and his father Mick, as well as all the other members of what is a very close and loving family.

"Our thoughts are with them at this time," the statement ends.

Jessica Druce, Severn Hospice area fundraiser, who worked closely with Gary and the Wrekin Rowers, said: “We were all so sorry to hear about Gary but privileged to be able to care for someone who put so much personal effort into caring for us.

“Gary was a fantastic supporter of the hospice, and we will never forget what he and the Wrekin Rowers did for us.”

Hundreds of statements of condolences have been left on the Wrekin Rowers Facebook page.

One reads: "This is such indescribably sad news. I didn't know Gary personally, but having been at the same school, it wouldn't be going too far to say that everyone knew who Gary Richards was.

"My overriding impression is of a man who lived life on his own terms, and the challenge he undertook with the Wrekin Rowers seemed typical of him. My sincere good wishes to all who loved him or counted him as a friend."

Another said: "We only knew Gary for a few months before he set off on his amazing challenge. We had been flooded by the River Severn two years running and had a design completed for flood defences that we couldn’t find a builder to take on.

"Gary saw it as an interesting challenge and worked so hard and skilfully to build it. Strong as an ox but also a real gentleman. I loved listening to the stories that him and Gerry told during their breaks.

"Gary’s wall has kept out the floods for the last two years. We’ll always be grateful to him for helping us out and blessed that we got to know him."

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