THE widow of ‘kind, compassionate, truly selfless’ Alan Greaves says she forgives his murderers - because it is what he would have wanted.
Reliving the terrible hours spent sitting beside her dying husband’s battered and bruised body in hospital, Maureen Greaves told hundreds of mourners at his funeral yesterday: “I was determined to turn aside from hatred, vengeance, unforgiveness and retaliation.”
Delivering a eulogy to her 68-year-old husband of 40 years, Maureen described Alan as her ‘best friend’ and ‘soul mate’.
She said she wanted to marry him the moment she met him.
Around 200 hundred mourners gathered at St Saviour’s Church in High Green for the service, while a further 200 watched on a specially erected screen in nearby St Mary’s.
More braved the bitter cold to line Mortomley Lane and listen via a loudspeaker.
“I respected and admired so many things about my husband,” Mrs Greaves told mourners. “Since his death many people have described him as a good man, and this is a very true description of him.
“Even at his least patient and most tired, Alan was a very kind, compassionate and truly selfless person.”
She said on Christmas Eve - the day of the attack that would prove fatal three days later - her husband bought her a bunch of flowers.
“When I went to thank Alan and give him a kiss he said, ‘I love you so much Maureen, so much, I am so glad I married you’.”
Speaking of his murder, she said: “Throughout our marriage, if ever people hurt us, misunderstood us, or treated us badly, he would strongly encourage me to react in a proper way.
“On Christmas Day, when I sat beside Alan’s bruised and battered body, it was only natural my thoughts would turn to those who had so cruelly and brutally attacked him.
“But even on that day I heard Alan in my mind saying, ‘Maureen, don’t give yourself permission’.
“So I was determined to turn aside from hatred vengeance, unforgiveness and retaliation towards those who had killed him.”
Mr Greaves, a former social worker, a lay preacher, a keen musician and father-of-four - Martin, Peter, Emma and Alison - was attacked as he walked to St Saviour’s for a midnight communion service where he had been due to play the organ.
Yesterday, just before 12noon, High Green came to a standstill.
The hearse pulled up outside the church followed by a car containing his wife and other relatives, and Mr Greaves’ body was carried into the church in a wicker casket by six pall bearers.
There were no floral tributes, just four red roses placed on the top of the coffin.
The service was attended by Angela Smith MP and South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright.
A section of Mortomley Lane was closed by police who stood guard.
Delivering the address, Canon Simon Bessant said Mr Greaves had planned his own funeral.
Starting with a line from O Little Town of Bethlehem, Canon Bessant said it was one of the carols Mr Greaves had been due to play on Christmas Eve, adding: “As we know, and the reason we are here today, Alan never arrived that night.
“In the dark streets of High Green that night, seemingly was not light but darkness, violence and evil.
“That such an event could happen in this community, which is not a bad area, on that of all nights, has shocked so many of us.
“I know that many people feel angry such a gentle man could be struck down with such senseless aggression.
“I can simply find no better way to describe Alan than to say he was a good man.”
Among the hymns was God So Loved The World, sung by Sheffield Teachers’ Choir, of which Mr Greaves was once a member.
The Bishop of Sheffield Dr Steven Croft led prayers for Mr Greaves’ family, his church family, the emergency services, the police and the hospital staff who fought to save him.
He added: “We pray for those who attacked Alan and pray that they are brought to justice and understand the enormity of what they’ve done.”
After the service Mr Greaves’ casket was driven away, and there was spontaneous applause from the crowd as Mrs Greaves hugged a female police officer outside the church.
A reception for all who wanted to attend took place at St Saviour’s Church Hall.
The funeral was followed by cremation at Grenoside Crematorium, and a private family service.
n Jonathan Bowling, 22, of Wesley Road, High Green, and Ashley Foster, 21, of Carwood Way, Pitsmoor, are charged with Mr Greaves’ murder. Both are remanded in custody and their next court appearance is in April.