HUNDREDS of mourners paid their last respects to Ibiza tragedy victim Luke Rhoden at his funeral.
It was standing room only at St John’s Church in Pemberton yesterday as friends and family of the popular 25-year-old gave him a send-off to be proud of.
In fact there were so many mourners that many, including Wigan rugby coach Shaun Wane, had to watch the service from outside.
Other familiar faces in attendance included several Wigan rugby stars, Luke’s former team-mate Sam Tomkins and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy.
Luke’s dad, Norman, acted as a pallbearer for his son before the hordes of mourners made their way into the church.
Once inside, the service opened with a heartbreaking tribute from Luke’s long-term girlfriend, Katie.
She said: “Luke was passionate in everything he did. One of my favourite memories was our holiday to Rome which he bought me for my birthday earlier this year. I had always wanted to go there and we had a fabulous time.
“Rest in peace, Luke. I will love you always.”
Following a musical interlude, groom-to-be Mike Rutter was next to pay tribute.
Holding back tears, he told how it was “the hardest thing” he had ever had to do.
He said: “We shouldn’t be here laying Luke to rest. Without Luke in mine and the lads’ lives it’s just not going to ever be as good.
“Whenever Luke was in the room there was always going to be humour. We all knew he was the main man.
“I’ll miss the morning telephone calls - before we had even got into work - and the 15 more he would bombard me with every day.
“I will think of him every minute I’m on this earth until I get to meet my best friend again.
“We all love you and miss you.”
But it was Luke’s dad, Norman, whose tribute struck such a chord with mourners that he received a spontaneous standing ovation.
Norman said: “My son was also a grandson, a brother, a partner to Katie and a great friend to many people. Luke was passionate about family and helped care for his grandad. He loved his grandad. He would leave notes around his house reminding him to look after himself.
“Luke was also a fantastic brother to his two young sisters – even though the noise they made was the reason he moved out! Luke and Katie were so good together.
“As well as losing a son we’ve also lost the potential of gaining a beautiful, kind daughter-in-law.
“But pride is my overwhelming emotion when I think of Luke. Pride at what he achieved, at his persistence to better himself at everything he did but, mainly, at the lasting positive effect he had on people he met.
“I know nobody’s perfect, but he was as close as anyone could get.” He added: “The pain of having to bury your child is indescribable.
“I feel like part of my soul has disappeared.
“This world is a darker place without him. A light has definitely gone out.
“When I was in Ibiza I was so angry I felt like doing something silly. I was sat in a bar with the friends who had accompanied me out there and I just couldn’t calm down.
“Then, all of a sudden, some musicians came in. As they came over to me they started singing Don’t Worry by Bob Marley.
“That was Luke giving me a message. That was my son looking out for me.
“Rest easy son. You will never, ever be forgotten.”