A popular RAF serviceman who died after a battle with inoperable cancer has been praised for his charitable efforts.
Former warrant officer Gary Banford, who retired from RAF Lossiemouth and lived in Forres, was told he had stage four oesophageal cancer in July last year.
The Macduff man enjoyed his “dream job” at the Moray airbase and most recently served in the Poseidon fleet tracking Russian submarines.
However, determined to make the most of his remaining time, he raised more than £25,000 for Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation, a charity set up by Elgin youngster Abbie Main before her death from cancer in December 2017.
Friends around the UK and abroad including Australia took part in sponsored sporting challenges to support the Moray charity.
No stranger to fundraising feats, Mr Banford cycled across the south of Australia wearing a kilt in 2016 to collect £4,500 for Macmillan after his father died from the same cancer.
‘Earned respect and admiration of all’
A RAF Lossiemouth spokesman said: “Gary served with distinction and pride over a 31-year career and our thoughts are very much with his much loved family and friends at this time.
“His passion for the Royal Air Force, his relentless pursuit of excellence in all he undertook and his commitment to fundraising for charities close to his heart means Gary was a well-known character on base and in the wider community.
“He earned the respect and admiration of all who knew him.
A statement from Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation read: “We will never forget his phenomenal fundraising for Abbie’s Sparkles and neither will the many children and families he has in turn supported by bringing smiles during very challenging times.
“What strength and determination he showed, you will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Mr Banford was popular in north-east rugby circles, playing for the likes of Banff, Lossiemouth and Kinloss.
Banff Rugby Club president Bob Phillips said: “Gary’s love for the game of rugby started at Banff RFC, when he was a teenager.
“Even then he showed great determination and commitment to the game and his teammates.
“He took this attribute with him in his family, work and sporting life, making strong friendships wherever he went.
“His passing is a huge loss to so many, but Gary will also remain a role model for youngsters to follow.”
Those affected by Gary’s passing are being encouraged to make a donation to Abbies Sparkle Foundation in his memory.