A place to sit and remember 'Crofty'
THE fiancée, family and friends, of a popular biker killed at the age of 28, have created a lasting legacy for their "life and soul of the party".
Around 60 people gathered for the unveiling of "Crofty's Bench" by the side of Glen Road, dedicated to Michael Croft.
Known to his family as Mike, and friends as Crofty, the worker for Estover manufacturing firm Barden Corporation, lost his life in March, when his motorcycle was involved in a collision.
More than 500 people attended the funeral at St Mary's Church of the popular Plympton man and he was described by loved-ones as "a joker with a keen wit, and someone who was "always there for you".
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His 22-year-old financée, Jess Wattling, who had been in a relationship with him for three years, said: "He was just amazing. He was fun-loving and he was my everything."
The bench, adorned with a huge flag, flowers and a beer, was described by his family as a peaceful place.
"The bench is a massive honour to him and I have never seen anything like it in my life," Jess said.
"I work in a salon and everyone is always saying to me: "Is that your bloke's bench?" I can see it whenever I walk by – we have done him so proud."
His mother, Jane, said "life would never be the same without him".
"He was clever and had an off-beat sense of humour and seemed to make friends wherever he went."
"We were stunned at his funeral to see how many came along. We knew he was popular but the whole church was packed out with so many people standing outside."
She said this was compounded by his friends' efforts to raise £1,000 for the bench, so they had somewhere to go and remember him.
"I'm sure he's still here with us," Jane added.
"It always seems peaceful here, despite the train going past one side and the traffic the other. It's a gathering place. He would have loved a bench – especially when he was 15 – to come and meet his friends."
Inscribed with the words "Come Sit With Me", penned by Michael's older sister, Samm, the bench has given the family some comfort.
"We wanted somewhere to sit with him and I feel closer to him when I sit here," said 31-year-old Samm.
The gathering place evoked memories for Michael's grandad, Colin Rundle, who said he remembered a time walking in Plym Woods, when Michael was a little boy and had observed the magnificence of a tree for the first time. He said he also remembered eating fish and chips together in Dartmouth.
For his father, Keith, he was able to sit and remember special father-and-son times shared when just the two of them would go to drag racing events each year.
Samm added: "He was my best friend – he was the best brother anyone could ever have."
"He would turn up at my door step at any time of the night. He was amazing and will be much missed by myself and my two boys."
Ross Coles, described his best friend who he'd known since primary school, as a "genuinely nice bloke".
"He was funny, witty and spontaneous – he used to organise us. There was never a dull moment with him around."
"He had a caring side and would help you out when you were in need."
Samm sent out thanks to her friend, Shelley Martin, who held a fund-raising barbecue in memory of Crofty and Michael's father, Keith Croft, also sent thanks to Debbie Pearce of the Post Office Public House, for being "very helpful" and laying on a lovely spread of food for Crofty's wake. He also thanked Plymouth City Council for their support.
A tribute to Mike has been produced on a Mega-Ride DVD which has just been released.