More than 60 people lined Station Road in Keswick, alongside Fitz Park Bowling Club, to say a final farewell to James Armstrong as his funeral cortege drove past on Friday lunchtime.
James, who was known as Jim, was 80 and died at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary on 4th October following a short illness.
The previous day, from his hospital bed, he celebrated 56 years of marriage to Cath.
Although they could not be together, he was able to speak at length on the phone with her and other close members of his family — and drink an anniversary toast with one of his favourite tipples — sambuca.
The drive-past had been arranged by Jim’s family for his many friends who were unable to attend his funeral service at Carlisle crematorium because of coronavirus restrictions.
Cath and daughters Linda and Wendy plan to hold an event to celebrate Jim’s life at a later date.
Linda lives in Germany with her husband, Tony, and their children, Adrian and Miriam, while Wendy and husband Graham, who have two daughters, Chloe and Sadie, have lived next door to Jim and Cath in Blencathra Street since they were married.
Linda said: “I can’t find words to really describe what I feel. Next time we visit after this pandemic is over, there will be a big empty space where dad would have been.”
Jim was an active member of Fitz Park Bowling Club for around 50 years. He took on the role of managing the club’s bar and, especially after his retirement in 2004, loved nothing more than to spend an evening there pulling pints and chatting to friends.
He was born in Carlisle in 1940, the middle son of railway worker Jim and Dorothy, who looked after young Jim and his brothers, Alan and Donald — five years his senior and junior respectively. Both Alan and Donald attended his funeral.
Jim was educated in the city and, on leaving school, took up an apprenticeship to train as a motor mechanic at Moore’s Garage in Lowther Street, after which he worked at County Motors, where they were offering 6d an hour more.
He and Cath met in a pub in Carlisle in 1963 when she was visiting friends, and Jim was keen to get to know her. As he was a little shy, he despatched a friend to ask Cath if she would like to go out with him.
Just over a year later they were married.
The following year, the couple moved to Keswick, first renting a flat in Myers Street before buying their home in Blencathra Street from where they never moved.
Jim worked at Keswick Motor Company, in Lake Road, and quickly became an indispensable member of the team — expected to turn his hand to any eventuality, including using the breakdown tow-truck to recover cars.
Over the years the couple became a big part of the Keswick community, Cath working as a part-time home carer while Jim’s career at Keswick Motor Company went from strength to strength.
When the owner, Joe Wilson, retired in 1990, Jim and his good friend and colleague Donald Holme bought the business and ran it in partnership.
In 1992 Jim and Cath first began holidaying in the town of Hersonissos in Crete, and they loved it so much they went back almost every year up until 2019.
Jim loved to help people and provide them with opportunities whenever he could.
His other passion was gardening.
Despite having only a small plot, he was delighted to win second prize with his 240cm high sunflower in this year’s National Sunflower Project.
Jim also loved to preserve his garden produce, making chutneys and pickling onions and beetroot, which he shared with family and friends.