Waterloo Road star Holly Matthews paid a heartbreaking tribute to her late husband as he was laid to rest at a moving funeral service on Wednesday. Hundreds of mourners gathered to bid an emotional farewell to the actress' 32-year-old partner Ross Blair.
The property developer died at Coventry Myton Hospice on July 29 after a three-year battle with a rare grade four brain tumour. The dad-of-two - son of ex-Aston Villa and Coventry City footballer Andy Blair - was given a 50/50 chance of surviving more than five years when he was diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal tumour (PNET) in 2014.
The funeral of Holly Matthews' husband Ross Blair was held on Wednesday
Fans of the BBC actress, who previously starred in Casualty, had been following the heartbreaking journey after Holly, of Coventry, began blogging about Ross' prognosis. And crowds of well-wishers dressed in football shirts turned out to the touching service at the Heart of England Crematorium in Nuneaton, Warks.
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Friends and family - including the couple's daughters Brooke, six, and Texas, four - packed out the crematorium and its grounds.Ross was carried in a white and blue coffin, bearing the badge of his beloved Sheffield Wednesday and carried by six friends with 'Blair - 18' on the back of their shirts as Now We Are Free by Lisa Gerrard played in the background.
In an emotional tribute, which was read out by funeral leader Tag McEntegart, Holly said: "The impact Ross has had on my life has been incredible. We have been best friends since we met. We spent our lives laughing and pottering around, always together. Throughout it all we have been together, and our mantra has been 'whatever it takes'. That is now what I will do with the girls - whatever it takes to get us through and thrive.
Holly paid a moving tribute to her husband at the funeral
"To many Ross was an opinionated joker, but to me he was the man that lay on my side of the bed to warm it before I got in. He would run my bath and warm my clothes on the radiator, so I didn't get cold. He was the man who took care of me, and would buy little gifts that would make me laugh. We would always keep each other on our toes. We would correct each other's grammar, and rant about politics over breakfast. We were never, ever, bored of each other. There wasn't an area of our lives that we wouldn't share."
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She continued: "He always played the song Still Into You by Paramore to describe how he felt about me. Ross was my every day - we woke up together and laughed and joked together, drinking cups of teas. He loved his girls so much, and he was the best dad. He would always be around them. I have lost my best friend. He once told me, that if he died tomorrow he would have done everything that he ever wanted to do. He said he had no regrets. He said: 'When I die, tell them that I was a good guy, that I was alright, that I was one of a kind.' I told him that he couldn't say he was one of a kind, because that had to come from other people, and he laughed. He was, and he always will be."
The couple have two young daughters together
Andy, Ross' father, said: "Ross was a very real man. From a very, very proud dad." Meanwhile his mother Dionne said: "Ross was like marmite, you either loved him or you didn't love him. When he was growing up, he would always say that he wanted to be a millionaire by the time that he was 30. He was never going to work too hard as he would never do a nine to five job. When asked why he hadn't achieved it, he always said he had achieved it by marrying Holly and having two beautiful daughters. He was one in a million."
During the humanist service, the crowd of mourners heard some of Ross' favourite songs - Crazy by Alanis Morisette, Enjoy Yourself by The Specials and When We All Stand Together by Nickleback. Tag McEntegart, who led the service, said: "It is a tribute to Ross that I am stood here looking out on so many football shirts, showing that his final wish has come to fruition.
Holly and Ross were together for nine years
"It is a privilege to have the opportunity to pay tribute to 'Ross the boss'. After a long battle, he collated his score and blew his final whistle, rather fittingly, at 4.45pm on a Saturday, just as the football matches would have been coming to an end."
STORY: Holly Matthews shares heartbreak over terminally ill husband
Holly had previously told of how she comforted her dying partner - who she'd been with for nine years - and asked him what his favourite members were. He struggled to breath as he replied "You, you, you". In an emotional video blog, she said: "We have lived this for three and a half years. Although we haven't lived with Ross being ill we've lived with the knowledge that things could change. The reality of it is heartbreaking. The girls are going to be great. We are going to do things, not in spite of this but because of this."
Ross had initially responded well to treatment following his devastating diagnosis, and the tumour remained stable for two years. However, on August 4 last year he had to have 75 per cent of the tumour removed at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham after a scan revealed that the tumour had grown. Just two days after they returned home from a holiday the Caribbean in May, he suffered a seizure and rapidly deteriorated. Ross was hospitalised and later transferred to the Coventry hospice, where his wife remained at his bedside day and night until his death.