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Covid: Suffolk farmer honoured at drive-in funeral he planned

By Charlie Jones
BBC News

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image captionPeter Cole organised the unusual service during lockdown, when he heard funeral numbers were restricted due to coronavirus

A man planned his own drive-in funeral so that more than 100 of his closest friends and family could celebrate his life.

Peter Cole, 80, died suddenly from a heart attack at home in Sibton, Suffolk, last month.

The father-of-five organised the unusual service during lockdown, when he heard funeral numbers were being restricted because of coronavirus.

His daughter-in-law said it meant "so much" to the family to be together.

image captionMore than 100 people in 60 cars turned up to celebrate Peter Cole's life

Michele Cole said: "He made it known to the family that if he died during the pandemic, he wanted to have a drive-in service so that we could all be together and be safe.

"He was a very imaginative and creative man. He formulated his elaborate plan during lockdown while he was gardening."

image captionPeter Cole asked for the hearse to be parked in front of the goal he defended for Peasenhall United

A week before he died, his local church held an outdoor service and he mentioned he wanted something similar on Sibton and Peasenhall playing fields, where he had played football as a child.

Mr Cole, who had 10 grandchildren, asked for the hearse to be parked in front of the goal he defended as a goalkeeper for Peasenhall United.

image captionPeter Cole was a big part of his community and made a lot of friends through the Peasenhall and Sibton Methodist Church
image captionBeyond the Sunset has been recorded by artists including Hank Williams (as Luke the Drifter), Pat Boone and Lonnie Donegan

The former farmer had already spoken to the minister he wanted for the service, who had retired but travelled from Lowestoft to lead it.

He had also arranged for the musician Eg White, a former member of 1980s boyband Brother Beyond and more recently an Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter, to perform. Mr Cole requested a song called Beyond The Sunset and his family discovered after his death that he kept the lyrics in the pocket of his jacket he wore to church.

image captionPeter Cole was a farmer, a keen gardener and an Ipswich Town Football Club fan

On the day of the funeral, on 12 October, more than 60 cars full of people turned up to celebrate his life.

It was a complex operation, with friends volunteering as stewards on the day and a track and trace system in place.

The family hired outside toilets and a lorry with a side opening door to use as a stage, so the equipment would stay dry if it rained.

They contacted The Big Outdoor Cinema company, based in St Osyth, Essex, who provided each car with a Bluetooth speaker so those inside the cars could listen to the service and two technicians to make sure it ran smoothly.

"We hope this will inspire other families who have lost someone during the pandemic to think outside the box," Mrs Cole said.

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