It started as a tweet from a Fylde coast soldier – but little could war veteran Rick Clement have known the impact it would have.
When Harold Jellicoe Percival died in October, aged 99, an obituary notice was placed in The Gazette’s sister title the Lytham St Annes Express.
It created headlines around the world, stretching from the Fylde coast to New Zealand, Los Angeles and the Caribbean.
The sad tale of the former RAF man, who died at Alistre Nursing Home in St Annes, captured the hearts of many, none more so than Sgt Clement, who ‘tweeted’ an image of the notice which went ‘viral’ on Twitter.
It was he who led the calls for the Fylde coast to help celebrate the life of former airman who died with no immediate family around to attend his funeral – poignantly held on Armistice Day.
The result was a story which went around the world and resulted in more than 500 people turning out to mark Mr Percival’s passing, despite many never knowing him.
The Gazette was the first newspaper to run the story in print and online, Tweeting through the night to drum up support.
Last week, the story earned The Gazette the ‘Story of the Year’ Award at the Johnston Press Awards 2013.
Without hesitation, we decided Sgt Clement should receive the award for the key role he played in making sure Mr Percival got the send off he deserved.
Gazette Editor Jon Rhodes said: “We are proud of the role both newspapers and our websites played in making sure as many people as possible attended Harold Percival’s funeral.
“From having seemingly no-one to attend to then get more than 500 people there on the day showed the great community spirit across the Fylde coast and beyond.
“But without doubt the man who led on this was Rick Clement – a man whose dedication to Armed Forces personnel, both serving and veterans, is something which should be celebrated.
“As soon as it was announced we had won the award for our coverage we felt Rick should be the person to receive it.
“We were delighted to invite him into the newsroom to receive this well earned recognition of the key role he played in this hugely uplifting story.”
Sgt Clement, who suffered devastating injuries after stepping on an explosive device planted by insurgents in Afghanistan, said his role in helping to spread the news of Mr Percival’s death was his “proudest achievement after recovering from his injuries”.
He added: “Something I have learned quite a lot about is making a difference to one person’s life is quite an easy thing to do.
“I just thought it opened people’s eyes on a huge weekend. It opened our hearts. We all came together. We are a military family, but many civilians came together for the funeral.
“Not for one minute did I think we would get so many people there.
“I figured some of my mates from the regiment would turn up but we gave him a good send-off.”
Sgt Clement added: “I’m very proud to receive the award.
“It’s amazing to be part of Harold’s story – and both The Gazette and Express played a key role. It’s a prize for us all.”