Tributes have been paid to a popular community hero who nurtured generations of air cadets.
Brian Luke, who spent 63 years with the 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron Air Training Corps, has passed away after losing a brave fight against cancer.
But the 77-year-old grandfather-of-two from North Shields has left an awe-inspiring legacy, helping thousands of aviation mad cadets fulfil their potential and reach for the skies.
Warrant Officer Tony Martin, Officer Commanding 131 (Newcastle) Squadron, said: “Brian was 346. He gave sterling service to the Corps for so many years…it’s not often you think of a person before a unit, but Brian was that person and will be sorely missed.”
Flt Lt Mark Robson, who served as Deputy Officer Commanding at 346, said: “A real blow to the Squadron and for everyone who knew Brian. As a cadet and as a member of staff he was a role model. He was one in a million and will be sadly missed.”
Former cadet Shaun Grudgfield commented: “His memory will live on in the positive impact he had on so many lives over the decades of dedication to the ATC and the kids and adults he influenced.”
Brian – who leaves a wife, Margaret, and two children – was still parading twice a week with 346 until two months before his death.
The former engineer at Parsons in Newcastle, joined 346 as a 14-year-old, after being dragged along to the Squadron by a school pal from what was Shiremoor Middle School.
The friend had left within the year, but by then Brian had fallen under the spell.
Brian moved from a cadet to a volunteer Civilian Instructor before being enticed into uniform, reaching the rank of Warrant Officer (ATC). When he retired from uniform in 1995 he returned as a Civilian Instructor for the second time.
Five years later he was made redundant at the age of 60 from his job as an adult trainer, having left Parsons ten years earlier, spending more time to 346 Squadron.
Brian worked under 12 different commanding officers at 346 during his 63 years with the Squadron.
Current Officer Commanding, Flt Lt Dan Laidler, said Brian had continued to be an inspiration to both him and the cadets until the end, and had remained a passionate supporter of the Air Training Corps.
“One of the first people I met when I joined 346 five years ago was Brian. I was told that he had been here forever, and it turns out that he had! During the years I have been here, Brian has been a real stalwart of the Squadron.
“We nicknamed him ‘The Boss,’ as I couldn’t do anything without running it past Brian first because he knew the Squadron, the cadets, and everything about the ATC. His 63 years of service made him a fountain of knowledge.
“As a person he was so amiable. He got on well with everyone whether they were a 12 year old cadet or an adult member of staff. Brian engaged with everybody and you couldn’t help but like him.
“He wasn’t looking for anything himself, only to help young people trying to find their way in life. He devoted himself to offering them a better future, and despite his failing health, Brian continued to do all he could for our cadets.
“I, the staff, and cadets, are all devastated at his passing. Brian’s loss will be immeasurable.
“But his legacy lives on in the many thousands of cadets he has inspired over the last 63 years, and whose dreams he helped take flight.”
His funeral will take place at Tynemouth Crematorium on March 14 at 11.15am, with cadets from 346 (Tynemouth) Squadron forming a guard of honour.
Squadron Padre, the Rev Michael Vine, will lead the service, which is expected to be attended by family, friends, and Air Training Corps staff and cadets past and present.