FIREMAN, footballer and young father David Bambridge has died after losing a four-year battle with leukaemia.
David’s family and friends paid tribute to the brave 35-year-old who always wanted to be a firefighter, and after a brief spells playing for both Margate and Ramsgate football teams, joined the fire brigade 10 years ago, working at the Thanet station in Margate Road.
David was diagnosed with the cancer of the blood four years ago, but continued to go to work until it became too difficult.
His mother Ann Bambridge said: "He was so brave, he didn’t let it get to him and never stopped joking or laughing.
"That’s what everyone always said about him – how funny he was.
"He never gave up despite frequent visits to hospital and even got into the holistic side of treatment, changing his diet to keep fighting it. He made the most of everything he had."
Former Hereson school pupil David always had a passion for football, and played in goal for both the isle’s league sides before a trial at Southend. He also practised Tai kwondo.
His sister Julie Baldwin said she will always remember his beautiful smile.
She said: "He was determined to get into the fire service. It was quite difficult to get in then, there were a lot of exams and everything, but he made it through and we were all really proud.
"One the thing he always remembered was tackling the blaze at the amusement arcade on Margate seafront. I think he was one of the first firefighters in there.
"It had a an effect on him I think, because just after they all got out, the building collapsed behind them."
DEVOTED father David Bambridge read his four-year-old daughter a bedtime story the night before he lost his battle with cancer.
Brave David, a fireman at Thanet fire station, died on Saturday at the age of 35 after a four-year struggle with leukaemia.
A talented goalkeeper, he played for both Ramsgate and Margate in the early 90s before joining Margate Athletic in 1999, and later Sunday team McCarthey’s.
It was at a football social night in Ramsgate’s St Laurence Tavern that he met his wife Melanie, who found fame as one of the twins on children’s TV show Funhouse.
Their daughter Millie will be five in May.
They were married at a small, family service in Ramsgate last February. David’s condition meant they had to spend their first anniversary in Canterbury Hospital.
Heartbroken Melanie said: "I felt sad that we had to had to spend it there but David was positive as always and said at least we were together. Although he was diagnosed four years ago, he died quite suddenly. He a read a bedtime story to Millie the night before and was active to the last.
"I think that is how he wanted it to happen – he never wanted Millie or I to suffer and even made a list of things I had to do once he was gone. He even chose the songs to be played at his funeral."
The family enjoyed a last holiday together at Euro Disney in February.
Melanie said: "Although he had to go back to the hotel to rest while we were in Disneyland, we all had a great time and it is a lovely memory. When we got back one of his friends had got us tickets to the Carling Cup final which, being a Spurs fan, he really enjoyed."
She said that the long periods David, known as Bambi to friends, spent in hospital had helped young Millie cope with the tragedy of losing her father.
Melanie and Millie have received scores of cards from former football teammates, players from other clubs and firemen, who she says were like brothers to him.
In messages sent to the Isle of Thanet Gazette, former team mates wrote: "He was a great goalkeeper and a top man, and will be sorely missed by all who knew him."
A message from Thanet’s firefighters also paid tribute to "Bambi; a fantastic fireman, a brilliant colleague and a top laugh."
David’s coffin will be carried by a fire engine at his funeral on Wednesday, 10 years to the day after David and Melanie met. After a service at St George’s church in Ramsgate, a celebration of his life will be held at the Pavilion in Broadstairs.
His fireman’s helmet will sit on top of his coffin, and be given to Melanie at the end of the service.
A lasting legacy
Instead of flowers, David’s family have asked for any donations will go to Leukaemia Research and the Brabourne Ward in Canterbury hospital who cared for him over the past four years.
To donate, call Maskell and Uden on 01843 850042.