THE LIFE of an "adventurous" and "loving" mental health manager who died in the Shoreham Airshow disaster was celebrated in a memorial service.

Mourners congregated in St Phillips Church, Hove, yesterday to remember Tony Brightwell.

The 53-year-old, of Hove, was indulging in his passion for watching planes at the time of the crash on August 22.

He leaves behind parents Barbara and Ernie, fiancée Lara, daughter Gemma, sister Judy, nephew Adam, best friend Andy and a large extended family.

More than 100 relatives, friends and colleagues heard Nimrod by Edward Elgar, Glad and Sorry by The Faces, hymns The Lord's My Shepherd and The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended, and Mr Brightwell's favourite song Blinded By The Light by Manfred Mann's Earth Band.

A specially prepared poem was read by his nephew at the service in New Church Road.

A member of his team at the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust paid tribute to a "larger than life character."

She said: "His Victor Meldrew approach to work was a great source of amusement to everyone. When asked how he was he would often reply 'You know, living the dream.'

"He was always reliable and worked hard. He was skilled, knowledgeable and respected by peers, patients, carers and families.

"He was a gentle soul and extremely protective of his team mates. He had an amazing way with words."

His best friend of 25 years Andy told the congregation how the food lover and budding cook once made moules marinière when they shared a bedsit in North London - but accidentally served the sink plug and chain with the meal.

He added: "He was always up for an adventure. He was the greatest mate anyone could wish for."

The brother of his fiancée Lara Ashby told of his great ability to take things on the chin and laugh at himself, his love of Second World War history, and a fascination with planes which often saw him pointing his mobile phone at the sky so an app could tell him which aircraft was flying above.

He said: "Lara and Tony were the Ying and Yang that balanced each other out perfectly. Tony was so devoted to Lara and provided her with so much support. They were due to be on holiday this week in one of their favourite spots in Turkey."

Reverend Stephen Terry praised all the emergency services who helped during the incident and the Sussex Police liaison officers who he said were a great source of comfort to the Brightwell family.

He added: "We will remember Tony forever. Keep the memories in the front of your minds and then in a very real sense he will be with us."

Mr Brightwell was buried at the Clayton Wood Natural Burial Ground yesterday morning in a private ceremony.

Donations in his memory to The Martlets Hospice can be sent to the Bowley Funeral Service, Keymer Road, Hassocks.


WHEN the fiancée of Shoreham Airshow disaster victim Tony Brightwell learned of his death she said she had lost the “love of her life”.

His partner Lara Ashby said she was “devastated” their plans for a life in the sun in a few years’ time would no longer happen.  In a tribute she said: “He was the love of my life, my soulmate. 

“He was a kind, loving man who always helped others and just enjoyed spending time with family and friends over a bottle of red wine.

“I watched him cycle off into the sun on his treasured Ridgeback bike to watch the airshow at Shoreham for a couple of hours, but he never came home.”

Mr Brightwell worked for Brighton and Hove City Council for eight years before being seconded to a position as a healthcare manager at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Denise D’Souza, Brighton and Hove City Council’s executive director of adult social care, said Mr Brightwell was a “valued” and “popular” member of staff. 

Kay MacDonald, Sussex Partnership’s clinical and research director, said he was “dedicated” to helping others.  Mr Brightwell was fascinated by planes, had gained a private pilot licence at Shoreham Airport and regularly visited the airfield.

He had stopped on the A27 on August 22 to watch the last flight of the Vulcan bomber.