Heartbroken relatives have spoken of their shock after the tragic death of a much-loved Lancaster school caretaker.
James Wilton, 32, was remembered as a wonderful son, partner, brother and uncle after he was killed in a motorbike crash near Settle.
Children at Ryelands Primary School in Lancaster – who affectionately called him ‘Mr James’ – laid flowers and tributes at the gate this week.
Mr Wilton, originally from Lancaster, only moved in to partner Ruth Hanson’s home in Main Road, Bolton-le-Sands, at the start of January.
Miss Hanson, 35, said: “James was a caring, loving man who would do anything for anyone. He worked incredibly hard at the school and was hugely loved by staff and children alike. He had a huge number of friends, including friends from school.
“We were at the start of what would have been a wonderful life together.
“His death has deeply shocked all who knew him and I miss him enormously, among the many others who will.”
Friendship turned to love for the couple nine months ago. They met when Mr Wilton joined Ryelands in 2010, when Miss Hanson was a teacher there.
His father Mark Wilton, 63, of Bowerham Road, Lancaster, said: “James was the sort of guy who just got on with people. He was able to engage with people, young or old, straight away. He will be really missed by all the family.”
And sister Gemma Summers, 35, who lives in Bristol, added: “He was a wonderful uncle to my young daughter. He was very hands-on and made lots of things for her. She adored him. We have many happy memories of James on holiday and lots of family celebrations.”
Decorated stones and pictures of him retrieving a football from the school roof were among ways young children remembered Mr Wilton.
Headteacher Carolyn Singleton said everyone at the Torrisholme Road school, where he had been site supervisor for three years, was “extremely shocked and upset.”
She added: “He became well-loved by all the staff and especially the children. James had boundless energy and enthusiasm, and often gave up his own time to support the school – nothing was too much trouble for him.
“He was always ready with a smile as he went about his work. We will miss him enormously at school. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.”
Mr Wilton, whose mother Susan Galloway lives near Preston, previously worked at Lakeland Marine Construction.
The football fan, a former Ripley St Thomas’ pupil, was a Manchester United supporter and enjoyed playing squash and walking.
He and Miss Hanson spent a weekend enjoying the Lake District outdoors with a Christmas break in Keswick.
He turned his interest in woodcraft into a special present for his one-year-old niece Aimee, creating a plaque inscribed with her name.
Mr Wilton’s other passion was diving – an activity he enjoyed on a holiday to Malta with Miss Hanson last August – and he hoped to visit Australia.
He was out for a ride on his black Kawasaki motorbike on the B6480 near Giggleswick, close to Settle Golf Club, when it left the road and hit a post last Sunday, February 2. He was pronounced dead at the scene just before 4pm.
A service of thanksgiving will be held at Lancaster Baptist Church at 2.30pm tomorrow, Friday, February 14, followed by a committal ceremony at Lancaster and Morecambe Crematorium at 4.15pm.