HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to popular Shirley resident Michael Hinks who died last week.
Michael, who taught at Light Hall School for more than three decades, passed away suddenly on July 13, from a burst artery.
More than 1,000 friends and former pupils have joined a Facebook group dedicated to Michael, many describing him simply as a "legend" or "The best teacher ever".
Friend and an ex-head teacher of Light Hall David Scard said sports-mad Michael was "more than just a teacher".
"He was a champion of the school and was a friend and a mentor to his pupils.
"Because of him, Light Hall gained an envious reputation and the teams were renowned for their sportsmanship.
"He had a lot of empathy with young people which made him special and they worshipped him."
The 59-year-old joined the school in 1970 and heralded an age of success for the sports teams, who were awarded numerous trophies in football and rugby.
Michael met wife Roz at Light Hall and although they never had children, David said Michael cared for and regarded all youngsters he taught as his own.
Out of school, Michael was an avid fan of Camp Hill Rugby Club and Moseley Cricket Club.
And he was involved in a number of sports associations across the borough.
Michael was also a keen gardener, who along with his wife, planned to open up their well-tended garden to guests last Sunday as part of the borough's Open Garden's event.
The couple had won Solihull gardens of the year a few years ago and Michael had recently received a commendation for his allotment.
David said: "He could often be seen riding through Shirley on his bicycle laden with produce from his plot which he shared with friends and elderly people he looked after.
"Michael will be sadly missed in Shirley as he was well-known personality. He taught generations of families in the area."
Michael's family requested no flowers at his funeral held yesterday (Thursday) at St James' Church in Shirley.
But instead mourners can donate money to Rehema Home, an African orphanage for children with AIDS in Nairobi that the family support.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to his chosen charity can send a cheque payable to the Light Hall School Trust Fund, stating Rehema Home on the back.