Battler Wil was ‘larger than life’

Sadly missed: Wil Handford
Sadly missed: Wil Handford

A highly-respected young sportsman – Wil Handford (24) – has died after bravely battling bowel cancer for the last 18 months.

The tragedy has brought great sadness to his family and many friends with hundreds of tributes being posted on social media sites.

It’s just incomprehensible – I just can’t believe it has happened. It is so sad. He was a great son

Karen Handford

A keen sportsman and fitness fanatic, Wil, who was 6ft 5in tall, participated in Mixed Martial Art (MMA) sports. He was also a keen trainer, spending hours in the gym.

After living in Australia for 18 months, he was attending a spec ialist sport training camp in Thailand when became ill. He returned to Australia and then came back to Lancashire for treatment in hospital after the illness was diagnosed.

Wil was born in Blacko and attended Blacko Primary School, before going to Fisher More RC High School in Colne and then Accrington and Rossendale College.

He lived most of his life in Barrowford and became a plumber. In Australia Wil held a number of different jobs

His girlfriend Rose Barrowclough had joined the keen sportsman in Australia

Wil’s loving mother, Mrs Karen Handford, said: “It’s just incomprehensible – I just can’t believe it has happened. It is so sad. He was a great son.”

And his father – artist and sculptor Mr Philippe Handford – said: “Wil had such a fighting spirit, a huge personality and an amazing soul. Many people were inspired by him and he made so many friends through talking about what he was going through.

“He always remained positive. I was a very proud father.”

When he became ill, Wil was determined to get his friends to be aware of the signs of potential cancer and he put used his Facebook page to highlight the issue.

His best friend Tom Pickles, who was with him at Blacko School, said: “The passing of Wil will affect everyone who ever met him, even if it was just for a second.

“Such was his indomitable and infectious personalily that it was impossible to do anything other than listen to him, to be on his team, to never forget him.

“He had an incessant and enviable ability to hold a room, packed with people, in the palm of his hand and effortlesly made each and everyone of them cry tears of laughter.

“Such was his height that he always stood out.

“But Wil was Wil and even if he had been three foot one, he’d have been a giant.”

A family friend said: “The outpouring of grief and affection at the news of Wil’s death underlines just what a popular character he was.

“He was a larger than life character in every way and will be missed by many, many people.

Wil’s funeral takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) at St Peter and Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Barrowford at 11am.

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