Tributes to Sheffield United fan and upholsterer to the stars, who scored Bramall Lane cup final winner

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved Sheffield United fan and upholsterer to the stars, who once scored a cup final winner at Bramall Lane.

Friday, 15th February 2019, 4:43 pm
Updated Friday, 15th February 2019, 4:47 pm
Garry Wright (right) and Telecom Sports FC secretary Andrew Johnstone receiving the Sheffield Sunday Sports League Merit Award on behalf of the club from Sean Bean at Bramall Lane

Garry Wright, who lived in Middlewood, died at St Luke's Hospice on Wednesday, aged 58, following a long battle with cancer.

The skilled craftsman, who ran his own upholstery business GW Innovative Interiors in Hillsborough with his wife Denise, repaired furniture for Chatsworth House and counted Premier League footballers among his celebrity clients.

Garry Wright (right) and Telecom Sports FC secretary Andrew Johnstone receiving the Sheffield Sunday Sports League Merit Award on behalf of the club from Sean Bean at Bramall Lane

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The grandfather-of-four was also a Sunday league stalwart, who enjoyed great success as a player, coach and manager, and perhaps his proudest moment came when he scored the winner in a cup final at his beloved Bramall Lane.

His wife Denise described him as a ‘larger than life’ character who always had a smile on his face and made a lasting impression on everyone he met.

"The way his death has touched people on Facebook is phenomenal. I've had 200 messages since last night from people saying how they can't believe he's gone and how much he'll be missed,” she said.

Garry Wright and his wife Denise on their way to Istanbul for his cancer treatment

"Garry was 6ft2ins and he had a larger than life personality. Once you met him, be it through business, football or something else, you never forgot him. He was always smiling, right up to his last breath.

"He's been an inspiration to so many people with cancer because he remained positive and never complained through the whole journey.

"People he met during his treatment in Istanbul from all over the world, including Australia and Shanghai, were ringing the hospice in his final days to say how they were praying for him.”

A clipping from The Star in 1979 about Garry Wright's selection as a young apprentice to represent the UK at that year's WorldSkills Competition in Ireland

Garry was first diagnosed with cancer in September 2015, and in March 2017 he was told the disease was terminal.

He refused to give up, travelling to Turkey 19 times in the space of 11 months for treatment.

It appeared to be working, with Garry going into remission.

Garry Wright at Tramlines last year with his son, daughter, daughter-in-law, niece and his wife Denise

But the cancer returned with a vengeance last November and this time, said Denise, there was no fighting it.

Despite his illness, Denise told how he was playing five-a-side football as recently as November and just a few weeks ago had joined his Sunday league friends for drinks.

Born on May 17, 1960, Garry grew up on the Park Hill estate and remained a proud ‘Parkhillian’ all his life, despite moving away. He attended Norfolk Comprehensive School before doing an apprenticeship in upholstery at Shirecliffe College.

Such was his skill, he was selected as a young apprentice in 1979 to represent the UK at the WorldSkills Competition in Ireland.

He worked for many years for Penrose and Rietberg in Pilsley before he and Denise started their own company, which was initially called GW Innovations.

Denise said he was proud to have handed down his traditional skills to the small team there, including his son-in-law Lee.

Garry Wright (back row, far right) with Stannington Village FC after they were crowned Sheffield Sunday Sports League Premier Division champions in 2017

"Garry's always believed a piece of furniture should be built to outlast its owner, even in these days of cheap, disposable goods, and he's proud that the staff he's trained will be able to uphold that tradition," she said.

Garry, who was a big ska fan, briefly manned the doors at Henry’s Bar in Sheffield city centre, where his ability to defuse any trouble with a smile and a friendly word made him something of a local legend, and it was there he worked his magic on Denise.

The loved-up couple eloped to Gretna Green to marry, not wanting to place a financial burden on their working class families, and had to pluck someone from the dole queue to be their witness.

They had two children, Daniel and Lauren, and were blessed with four granddaughters, whom Garry adored spending time with.

Garry shone for numerous clubs in the Sheffield Sunday Sports League as an attacking midfielder, with his trickery earning him the nickname ‘Gazza'.

He scored five goals in two league cup finals for Stannington Community during the 80s and hit the winner on his first appearance at Bramall Lane to help Bass Stones lift the trophy in 1994.

His other teams included Rising Sun; Telecom Sports, whom he led as manager to promotion to the league’s top tier for the first time; and Stannington Village FC, where as a coach he played a big part in their run of five Premier Division titles in six years.

League chairman Keith Firminger said: “Garry was a very good footballer and a smashing guy. Although he wanted to win every game, he always demanded that his teams played in the right manner. His enthusiasm will be missed.”

John Grayson, of Stannington Village FC, said: “Garry used to come every week and would help out before the game, warming the lads up, and at training. Even these last couple of years when he was very ill with cancer he came whenever he could and did his best to get involved.

“He was a bundle of fun, and a real character, with lots of enthusiasm and energy. He was a really good guy and we’ll all miss him.”

Garry’s son-in-law Lee Johnstone, who is taking over at the helm of the business, said: “He was my mate, my mentor and my biggest fan, as well as being my father-in-law.

“He was an absolute giant of a man in size, heart and generosity, who lit up a room.”

Garry’s funeral is due to take place at Grenoside Crematorium on Wednesday, February 27, at 3pm. His family have asked for any donations to be made to St Luke's Hospice.

Garry and Denise on their wedding day in Gretna Green
Garry at Center Parcs in October last year