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Mother's funeral tribute to fireman

The mother of a firefighter who died while tackling a blaze has paid tribute to her "gentleman" son as he was laid to rest.

Former soldier Stephen Hunt, 38, died after being pulled from a burning shop in Oldham Street, Manchester.

Saying that his dedication cost him his life, his mother, Susan Veevers, said of the father of two: "Our family has lost a great man and our pain is indescribable. Our only comfort is the wonderful memories we have of Stephen.

"We were all exceptionally proud of Stephen, not just as a firefighter but as a loving son, caring brother and his prized and most important job - being the very best a father could be."

Mr Hunt and a colleague got into difficulties during the fire at Paul's Hair World in July. Both were taken to hospital but Mr Hunt was declared dead on arrival. It is thought he had been enveloped by a sudden surge of extreme heat which took the officers inside the building by surprise.

Mourners gathered for Mr Hunt's funeral at the parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Bury. His mother recalled his all-action nature and their time together.

She said: "At age 17 Stephen begged me to sign the consent required for him to enlist in the Army. I was browbeaten due to his determination to become a soldier and, despite my motherly worries, I reluctantly signed the consent forms.

"Until recent events I'm not sure I ever cried so much but my tears then were without cause. Stephen loved the Army and excelled in everything he applied himself to. He only left the Army to be with his family when his children were young. When Stephen later joined the fire service, he found another career which suited him perfectly.

"Becoming a firefighter was a very happy time for Stephen. He was passionate about his role and dedicated to the job. It was a pleasure for all his family to see Stephen enjoy his working life so much. We know Stephen loved his colleagues and, from all the stories and all the fun he had at work, it gives me great comfort to know that he belonged to such a great team. The fire service was Stephen's other family.

"Stephen was a true gentleman. He would open the doors for women and was always chivalrous. Stephen was openly affectionate and would often end a phone call with 'Love you'. We all miss these phone calls terribly."

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