• Mick McDonald, 50, converted a rusty old VW campervan into a hearse for his friend’s business, Retro Farewell
  • He joked that the work would kill him before dying last month
  • he was carried from Darlington funeral parlour to Middlesbrough crematorium in hearse on September 28

By Helen Pow

A mechanic appears to have predicted the circumstances surrounding his own death when he died from a heart attack after completing work on converting a VW campervan into a hearse.

Mick McDonald, 50, had joked that the job would ‘be the death of him’ but then he became the first person to use it.

Mr McDonald had carried out the work for his friend Carl Bell’s business, Retro Farewell.

After the fatal cardiac arrest he was driven for his own funeral from John Meynell parlour in Darlington to Acklam crematorium in Middlesbrough.

Rest in peace: Carl Bell, pictured, stands with the VW hearse his friend Mick McDonald built before he died and was driven in it from his funeral

Rest in peace: Carl Bell, pictured, stands with the VW hearse his friend Mick McDonald built before he died and was driven in it from his funeral

Tragic: Mick McDonald, pictured, worked on the campervan hearse before suffering a fatal heart attack last month

Tragic: Mick McDonald, pictured, worked on the campervan hearse before suffering a fatal heart attack last month

Mr Bell said: ‘That was always his line, he would
always joke that I worked him too hard and the campervan would be the
end of him.

‘That’s what’s so ironic about him dying and now he is the first person to use the hearse on his final day.’

Mr
Bell has been hiring out another VW campervan for weddings for some
time. After seeing how happy the quirky vehicle made people, he decided
to create a hearse version, and asked McDonald to help him tart up a
rusty old turquoise combie van.

‘I get a great reaction from people
when I use it, I get smiles and waves from the public, it just makes
people happy,’ the 42-year-old Middlesborough man said.

‘I thought I could use it on someone’s final day, the hearse isn’t black, it’s white, and makes funerals a bit less sad.’

Best friend: Carl Bell, pictured with the camper, was devastated by the sudden loss of his pal Mick McDonald

Best friend: Carl Bell, pictured with the camper, was devastated by the sudden loss of his pal Mick McDonald

Bright white: Mr Bell, pictured in the camper, said a bright white campervan makes funerals less happy

Bright white: Mr Bell, pictured in the camper, said a bright white campervan makes funerals less happy

Mr McDonald,
a mechanic who restored cars for a living, was happy to help but after
completing the project suffered a fatal heart attack, which devastated
his family and friends.

‘What
you saw was what you got with Mick, he was a funny guy, he wouldn’t
harm anyone and it’s just a shame that he’s gone,’ Mr Bell said.

‘It just not something you would expect, he didn’t smoke or drink and he was a fit guy, he worked constantly,’

Mr
Bell thought using the campervan hearse at Mr McDonald’s funeral would be a
fitting tribute, and he reckons his best mate would have loved the
attention.

‘I
thought to myself, is it insensitive to mention the campervan to his
family? But his partner Lynn was over the moon with the idea – she
actually thanked me in her speech at the crematorium, so I think it was
a very good celebration of his life.’

Procession: Mr McDonald, 50, was carried from John Meynell Funeral parlour in Darlington to Acklam crematorium in Middlesborough in the campervan hearse he built for Mr Bell, pictured

Procession: Mr McDonald, 50, was carried from John Meynell Funeral parlour in Darlington to Acklam crematorium in Middlesborough in the campervan hearse he built for Mr Bell, pictured

 

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

I new Mick from 2009 when he flagged me down in my cortina to tell me about his own car from then on we became good friends, am sad at not hearing about his passing and being able to attend his fueral, he would have been laughing to himself being the first to use the hearse He did a lot of work for me his standards were second to none i like lots of people will miss hearing about his projects RIP Mick . bob

norton
,

stockton on tees, United Kingdom,
13/10/2012 11:39

obviously the people who have made the negative comments didnt know Mick he was my brother in law and he would be so proud that he made his final journey in the camper van that he had lovingly restored. Mick wouldnt have wanted everyone to be misserable he was a happy person who loved classic cars and restoring them. I would like to give carl a massive thank you doing this for mick. So a big thankyou carl. RIP Mick gone but never forgotten xx

debju
,

stockton on tees, United Kingdom,
11/10/2012 21:06

I knew Mick since 1987 had always found him a loyal friend; we worked together off on over the years can never remember a time he did’nt have at least one ‘project’ on the go. He was passionate about classic/ custom cars some of his results creations appeared in magazines much to his delight; he would do anything to help anyone. A true one off! R.I.P Mick. you will be greatly missed…Tony@Baltic. Stockton-On-Tees

steelcity48
,

stockton on tees, United Kingdom,
11/10/2012 19:16

I have known Mick for a few years through the car scene and at work, as a window installer. He was always fun to be around. Mick had attended the OK Diner meet on the A19, several times, with two of his cars, a Mk 1 Cortina and a Humber Sceptre. RIP Mick. Our thoughts go to your family at this very sad time. Mark Hasler (1939 Oldsmobile) and all the fellow Hot-Rodders from the North East.

MarkH
,

Middlesbrough, United Kingdom,
10/10/2012 19:02

I have know Mick for a few years and had also met him at work as a window installer. Mick was always happy and a real pleasure to be around with his sense of humour. He had also attended our OK Diner meet on the A19 which is the first wednesday of each month. He had brought two of his many cars to the meet, a Mark 1 Cortina and a Humber Scepter. Rest in peace Mick, our thoughts go to all your familly at this very difficult time. Mark Hasler (1939 Oldsmobile) and all the fellow Hot Rodders from the Northeast.

MarkH
,

Middlesbrough, United Kingdom,
10/10/2012 18:53

I knew Mick since 1977 and have spent many hours messing around with cars and he has painted and repaired lots of my families cars including my wife’s current car. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about him and have many happy memories of him. I hope that wherever he is now, he managed to get himself a ford mustang!
RIP mate.

Peter Mac.

Petermac29
,

Trimdon, United Kingdom,
10/10/2012 17:40

I knew mick since 1977 and have shared his passions for repairing cars. He was a genuine nice bloke who would do anything for people and has done loads for me and my family over the years including respraying my wife’s current car. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him and I will miss he laughs we used to have.
I do hope that he finally got his hands on a mustang wherever he is now.
RIP mate.

Peter Mac.

Petermac29
,

Trimdon, United Kingdom,
10/10/2012 17:33

Not to change the subject, but what’s with the trend in caskets? I’ve recently noticed several photos showing blue, pink, sports or cartoon-character coffins, instead of more classic wooden ones.

Anna
,

Michigan, United States,
09/10/2012 21:17

he was my best friend,soulmate and all round good guy,always do you a good turn,..he has gone too soon and am devastated by his loss.. true true friend . i will miss his wit, and friendship. we spoke nearly eveyday sharing the same passions for cars. i was there for him, he was there for me..i would have gone to ends of the earth for him.he wouldnt do the same as he would get lost even with directions ! but if i drove he would be beside me and still is…….forever…

bh1970
,

newton aycliffe, United Kingdom,
09/10/2012 20:51

Ive known Mick for over 24 year, i remember meeting him through a friend and he painted my first RS Turbo for me and he did an amazing job, He drifted off into custom and american cars and always had lots to tell when you seen him, total petrol and gear head! Mick would have loved the send off he got, he was a joker and his friends arranged a fitting tribute that deserves respect!

R.I.P Mick Mac

Trevor Wright Stockton On Tees

Trevor Wright
,

Stockton On Tees, United Kingdom,
09/10/2012 19:50

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