FRIENDS and family gathered at Pitsea Crematorium today to pay their respects to Andy Lever. 

The former editor of the Thurrock Gazette passed away, aged 61, at his home in Grays in December. 

Large crowds gathered at the crematorium to pay their final respects to Andy, who was one of life's characters who certainly didn't waste too much time on small talk...

"When the Saints go marching in" was played as the crowds entered the crematorium.  

The Dash, by Linda Ellis, was included in the order of service, while Neil Speight, editor of the Thurrock Independent, spoke movingly at the service about his former colleague.

He said: "If he were to reflect on today and what I'm saying, Andy would grunt, mutter something grouchy under his breath and protest. That was his nature. He didn't like to be thought of as anything other than a hard-bitten, hard-nosed hack. But he was. He was a great man and a kind man."     

Andy's brother Mike gave a soul-searching eulogy to his brother reminiscising about the times they'd enjoyed growing up together, he also shared many fond memories about his straight-talking, no-nonsense big brother. 

Status Quo's "Down Down" was played so people could reflect on their memories of Andy, and the service concluded with a rendition of "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" by Monty Python. 

Afterwards, a celebration of Andy's life took place at East Thurrock United's football ground in Corringham.

Andy edited the Gazette for a number of years, before going onto become a senior press officer at Thurrock Council.

He had been battling ill health for several years.

For 18 months, he worked on and contributed to the Thurrock Independent, leading and helping the paper with investigations.