Hundreds say farewell to Andrew...the friend who always had a smile on his face.
FAMILY and friends from across the country gathered at St Francis of Assisi Church in Ingleby Barwick for the funeral of Andrew Gibson.
Over 500 people filled the church to celebrate the life of a hugely popular 22-year-old, who died seven months after suffering serious head injuries in a car crash in Dubai.
Former school teachers, football team-mates and family members were among the huge congregation paying their respects.
And a coach-load of students from Loughbrough University, where Andrew had been studying architectural engineering and design management, also made the trip to Teesside.
Andrew's family had requested that the funeral service should be a celebration of the fun-loving young sports enthusiast's life and achievements.
And many wore brightly coloured clothing in tribute to the former Egglescliffe School pupil, who was described during the service as always having a smile on his face.
His coffin was carried into the church to the accompaniment of Don McLean's American Pie, followed closely by his family and closest friends.
Father Paul Dominiak then conducted the service, with friends and family providing readings, and speaking of their memories of Andrew, known by many as Gibbo.
Andrew's family had wanted their son remembered for what he had achieved in his short but hugely happy and active life.
And from looking around at both the smiles and tears in the congregation, it was obvious that he left them with many memories.
His family's wishes for people to celebrate happy memories with Andrew were summed up by a line of a poem read during the service - "You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back or you can do what Andrew would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on."
Andrew's sister, Gemma, gave a brave and moving speech in which she described how lucky she had been to have a brother who was not only her sibling but also her best friend.
She spoke movingly about how Andrew had touched her life and that that "memories last forever."
Prayers were offered and Andrew's coffin was carried from the church, by a group of friends including Boro star Matthew Bates, before a private committal at Teesside Crematorium.
Donations from the funeral service are going to Headway Charity for those affected by brain injuries.
A FRIEND: Among the mourners was Middlesbrough player Matthew Bates, who had previously paid tribute to Gibbo during a Boro match, left, but joined other friends for the funeral as they looked at the gold and black Loughborough Dynamo shirt with Andrew's number on it.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back or you can do what Andrew would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on - an extract from a poem read during the funeral service of Andrew Gibson
FINAL FAREWELL: Students from Loughborough University travelled by coach to attend Andrew Gibson's funeral Pictures by DOUG MOODY