It was his last visit to the place where he washed thousands of cars over the years.
And when Craig Barker’s funeral cortege pulled in to The Pavilions car park at Thornaby , a spontaneous round of applause left no doubt how much he meant to his customers, friends and staff from the centre’s various shops.
It was the sort of day Craig wouldn’t have minded – mild, no rain, plenty of people arriving to do their shopping on market day.
And he’d have greeted them all with a friendly “car wash mate?” or “car wash love?”
But today, the mood was more sombre. And the water butts, where his sons continue to offer a car wash service, were coned off to allow space for Craig to visit them one last time.
As the hearse inched slowly around the car park, the strains of “Sweet Harmony” by The Beloved – one of Craig’s favourite songs – could be heard.
And when the cortege approached his car wash space, everything stopped for a brief moment of reflection.
Onlookers swapped stories of the polite, cheery lad who would wash their cars in all weathers.
“He was a real pleasure and the graft he put in was unbelievable,” was a typical comment.
And the tributes kept coming at Teesside Crematorium for the 47-year-old dad-of-seven who died so tragically, along with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier he doted on, Leo, in an alleged murder in Stockton on July 22.
Mourners at the standing-room-only service heard how Middlesbrough-born Craig – known as Slater to many – was a “mischievous” youngster who, after an apprenticeship as a carpet fitter, found the job he loved, washing people’s cars, longest and last of all at The Pavilions in Thornaby.
A bubbly, chatty “people person” with a wide ranging sense of humour, he was caring too, always willing to put himself out to help others.
Fun-loving and positive, mourners laughed at hearing how he was “able to do the impossible, like picking up something hot straight from the oven, with his bare hands” and how he always had a “bagful of sugar” in his porridge.
Fiercely independent, he often spoke his mind and could be stubborn. He was always active and “on the go”, with a soft spot for children, and he loved his TV soaps and holidays abroad.
But the most important thing in his life was his family, with his world revolving around long-time partner Sarah, kids Andrew, Natalie, Corrie, Macaulay, Ethan, Kelsey and Nikita and his grandchildren, who knew him as “Grandad Boyo”.
The music at the service reflected his eclectic taste, including It’s A Sin by the Pet Shop Boys and feelgood anthem Live is Life by Opus.
And as mourners filed out, his favourite Beloved track was played again, with its lyrics perhaps summing up Craig’s approach to life:
“Let’s come together, right now, oh yeah, in sweet harmony…”
• Nathan Davis, 25, of Wylam Road, Stockton, denies murder and two counts of having an offensive weapon , an axe. He is due to stand trial on February 4.