Mildenhall’s taxi drivers turned out in force to say the final goodbye to one of their longest serving colleagues.
The hearse carrying John ‘Tilly’ Till’s coffin was followed through the town by 11 taxis from M&L Taxis and was parked in the number one position on the town’s taxi rank for a short ceremony before going on to West Suffolk Crematorium on Tuesday.
John, 71, moved to Mildenhall from London in the 1960s and had been a taxi driver for 40 years.
His wife Pam said: “When he started there weren’t very many so when taxis got numbers he became taxi number two. We had the flowers made to a sign of ‘taxi two’ on his coffin.
“He rarely had a day off – it was his life. When he was struck by cancer 18 months ago he had to sell the taxi and it absolutely broke his heart.”
In his final months, John would sit in their Scott Avenue home, and if he saw his old car go by would say ‘there goes my taxi’.
He died on June 13, leaving his wife, sons Wayne and Lee, daughter Dionne and five grandchildren, As the family were planning the funeral his sons suggested getting ‘a couple of taxis’ to follow the hearse, so they told Gary Peachey of G R Peachey Funeral Directors.
By coincidence, he was at a funeral attended by some taxi drivers who asked if they could organise a procession.
Pam said: “They rang me up and said ‘do you mind’ and I said the family would love it.”
The taxis in the cortege were led by a V-registered Volkswagen Passat John sold several years ago to its current owner Mark Apicella, who restored it and still runs it as a taxi. He had painted ‘Tilly’ on the doors for the funeral.
Pam added: “It was lovely – people were stopping an taking pictures as we drove through the town. People I don’t know have said how nice it was on Facebook, which is lovely.”
Lee said the service at the crematorium was attended by several of John’s regular customers.
He added: “When Americans from the bases wanted to go sight seeing in London, off he’d go with them. He loved doing it.”