England

Hillsborough stories: Thomas Howard Sr

Tommy Howard Jr and Thomas Howard Sr
Image caption Tommy Howard Jr and Thomas Howard Sr were the only father and son to both die during the Hillsborough disaster

A father-of-three from Runcorn, Tommy Howard Sr travelled to the match with friends and his 14-year-old son Tommy Jr, who also died. They were the only father and son to die in the Hillsborough disaster.

This is the full statement to the inquests from his sister, Muriel Bellamy:

Thomas Howard Snr, was born on 24 May, 1949, he was 39 years old.

My brother Thomas Howard was born on Empire Day. They called him 'Empire Tom' in the hospital because he was over 10lb.

I was 11 years old when Tommy Sr was born. There was me, Tommy, my mum and dad. We lived in a narrow little street, with my grandmother living on one side and my aunt living in a house on the other.

When he was little, he went to Adam Cliff Nursery and then to Steers St Infant School when he was seven years old and, later, on to senior school.

When he first started to go to school, he would disappear every morning to try to avoid going and we would have to search everywhere for him, only to find him hiding in one of our relatives' houses nearby. Eventually he liked school and he did well at it.

'Enjoyed the sea'

When he was 14 years old, he had a job as an errand boy for Melia Grocers shop when he finished school at four o'clock. When he left school, he got a job at Reece's Dairies until he could join the Merchant Navy. He was with the Blue Funnel Line.

He made many trips abroad with the navy, even travelling as far as away as Hong Kong and Australia. He loved Australia. He enjoyed going away to sea.

Tommy was always very fond of his food, which sometimes proved a problem in the navy. He was once serving on one of what they called the starvation ships. They had their ration books. Tommy had to walk off the ship because he couldn't survive without his food.

I have met some of the lads that he sailed with, and they all said he was a great lad.

'Whirlwind romance'

He met Linda, whom he would later marry, when he was on leave.

Linda was 20 when she met him. They had a whirlwind romance. She said he really made her feel special. Everyone had something good to say about him.

They got married, at which point Tommy left the navy and took up a job in Ward Blenkinsop in 1973. Tommy worked as a process operator and, like most people at Ward Blenkinsop, acquired a nickname or two.

Tommy was known as the 'Gentle Giant' and then more commonly as 'Big Bird' after the bird in Sesame Street.

The full statement to the inquest from his son, Alan Howard:

Tommy Sr enjoyed many sports. As a child, it was always cricket or football that a gang of the lads would be playing. Later he enjoyed golf and darts.

He joined the Ward Blenkinsop Golf Society and enjoyed the various days out they organised.

'Thoughtful and caring'

Linda and Tommy Sr had three children together - Tommy Jr, Alan and Gail. Tommy doted on his family.

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Media captionTribute to Thomas Anthony Howard

His son, Alan, remembers Tommy Sr as a loving, gentle father to his three children. He would always take an interest in our schoolwork and our lives in general. He was thoughtful and caring.

On weekends and school holidays we were treated to the most memorable family holidays. My mum and dad would sometimes just decide on the spur of the moment to head to the beach for the day.

In the summer holidays we went to Blackpool, Pontins and Butlins and as we got a little older we went to Spain.

He was a hard working man and was well liked by his colleagues, so much so that in November 2012 myself, my sister and my aunt were asked to open a garden dedicated in memoriam to him and my brother at his former work place.

'Gone to heaven'

Many of my father's former colleagues were present and spoke in very high esteem of our father. He was well respected in the area we lived and still is to this day. He'll always be remembered with fondness.

These are only some of the limited memories myself and my sister have with our father.

To be sat down and told by our mother one spring morning that our father and brother had gone to heaven when we were just 11 and eight years of age is something we found exceedingly difficult to come to terms with, and still do to this day.

It is saddening that he isn't with us to see his beautiful grandchildren, his grandson being given his first name in his and our brother's memory, all because they only went to watch a game of football.

We thank the coroner for allowing us to give this account of our father.

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