Wigan Youth Zone charity champion and businessman Bernard Edmunds dies

Bernard Edmunds outside his beloved Wigan Youth Zone
Bernard Edmunds outside his beloved Wigan Youth Zone

One of Wigan’s great charity giants was being mourned today.

Bernard Edmunds, a linchpin of the town’s Youth Zone, passed away late on Wednesday night after a long but brave battle with cancer which he waged way beyond doctors’ expectations.

Bernard Edmunds (right) in fancy dress with friend and Youth Zone co-founder Martin Ainscough at the 2017 Wigan 10K

Bernard Edmunds (right) in fancy dress with friend and Youth Zone co-founder Martin Ainscough at the 2017 Wigan 10K

Tributes have been paid by family and friends, knowing that the 73-year-old’s hoped for legacy as a charitable champion for the boys and girls’ club is secure.

In an interview with the Wigan Observer in April 2018, Mr Edmunds said that he had been given only a few more months to live due to a virulent and inoperable brain tumour, but was determined to use whatever time he had left to the full, much of which would be expended on his beloved Youth Zone.

The grandfather of eight, who lived in Marylebone with partner Sarah, died at the Cross Hall care home in Mawdesley with several family members at his bedside.

Sarah said: “Bernard was a character, full of life and with a huge heart.

"Once met, never forgotten, he was one of life’s givers and a real fighter.

“The doctors told him he had the ‘beast of all beasts of cancer’ but he just fought it tooth and nail.

"He was still getting out and about until almost the end. He was a lovely gentleman, who was very proud of his family; a great communicator and a planner who believed that ‘all things are manageable’.

"We made a great little team.”

As well as Sarah and his grandchildren, Bernard also leaves three children: Lisa, Louise and Richard.

Lisa said: “He was a loving and caring man; a thoughtful parent who dedicated his life to his family and friends.

"He was very passionate about many things and he wanted to play his part in making life better for other people.

"His charity work will leave a legacy: particularly the time and effort he put into the Youth Zone to help young people achieve their potential.

“He showed great courage in the face of the disease but now he is at peace.

"He will be missed by many who will cherish his memory.”

London-born, Bernard enjoyed a long corporate career, mainly buying and selling businesses, travelling the world, and sitting on the board of businesses in Bahrain. He was also chairman of Wigan Cricket Club.

Although semi-retired several years ago, he said he wanted to keep his hand in and so agreed help tycoon Martin Ainscough establish Wigan University Technical College, helping to build its celebrated vertical farm.

Mr Ainscough then asked him to get involved in the Youth Zone as a business ambassador, so he joined the board, supporting events, handling PR and media, and engaging with the Wigan business community.

Mr Ainscough said: “It’s a sad day, but Bernard truly was an inspiration, the way he dealt with his illness.

"His ability to carry on with life as best as possible was exemplary.

“He was a great campaigner. Up until very recently he was still sending me emails with ideas for the Youth Zone; still thinking of what he could do for others rather than feeling sorry for himself.”

Details of the funeral have yet to be finalised.