FRIENDS told of 'a larger than life' Newport taxi firm boss with 'the patience of a saint' who has died aged 27 after battling leukaemia.
Andrew Barley, director of Newport taxi firm, Dragon Taxis, died on Monday aged 27, after suffering organ failure.
Andrew first got ill in December 2012 with what first seemed like a persistent cold. He was diagnosed with leukaemia and started chemotherapy right away. His last dose of treatment was in April of last year, after which he celebrated being in remission and his 27th birthday at a surprise party.
“He had beaten the cancer,” said Gareth, his partner of the last six years. But with the risk of it returning Andrew went back into hospital in December 2013 for a bone marrow transplant. He remained in the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, for several months but his body struggled to recover and on Monday, he died of organ failure.
His partner said: “The support we got there was incredible. All the staff were absolutely amazing. “ Growing up in Broadmead Park, Mr Barley went to Lliswerry primary and secondary schools. In high school, he loved drama and went on to be head boy.
After leaving school, Mr Barley began working for ABC taxis. He then moved to Star Taxis, before ending up at Dragon where he has worked for the last four years as operational director.
Glenn Howells, manager at Dragon Taxis, said: “He changed my life. He was the one who got me the job in the office. That’s the type of person he was.
“He wasn’t just a boss but a friend as well. People loved working with him. He was a true friend, larger than life – a gentle giant. He had the patience of a saint. There was an aura about him.
“His boots will never be filled at Dragon Taxis. If it wasn’t for Andrew, Dragon wouldn’t be there now. When he joined he saw what was going on and he rectified it. That’s the truth.
“He did more in 28 years than most people will do in their whole life.”
Josh Knapman, who now works at the South Wales Argus, had been a friend of Andrew’s since he was six-years-old and had worked with him at Dragon Taxis.
Mr Knapman said: “He wouldn’t hesitate to do anything for anyone.”
He described his death as a “complete shock “. He said: “I was under the impression he was getting better.“ In between hospital visits, Mr Barley’s commitment did not falter. “The day he came out of hospital he went straight to the office,” said his brother, Michael Barley.
“Committed was one of the best words to describe him - with work, family, everything. It was all or nothing. Nothing was half-hearted with him,” said Gareth.
“It doesn’t matter who it was – he was always willing to help people. He was ambitious and would always be looking to the next step.”
The family said they had been amazed at the amount of people who had messaged them since Andrew’s death, many of whom they don’t know.
“He literally knew everyone. You’d walk around the supermarket and there would always be someone he’d say hello to,” said Gareth.
“If you had any issue that’s the first person you would go to.”
Michael Barley said even when his brother – due to be best man at his wedding later this year- was in hospital he would have people calling him to ask questions and for advice.
“He said he would never leave Newport,” said close friend, Gemma Jones.
Mr Barley volunteered regularly at the Newport Boys Brigade. Liz Thomas, who runs the 1st Newport Company, said: “He was five-years-old when he joined. He was great with the kids – he loved it. He commanded great respect from the boys. The boys will really miss him.”
But Liz also became a close friend. She said: “He helped me through the toughest time of my life. I’d only have to text him and he would be there. He was like a big brother.”
Gareth said: “It’s surreal how many people are affected by him. He had that much impact and importance in other people’s lives.
“I’m sad for time we didn’t have. The future looked amazing.
“The bottom line is, he was just amazing.“ The funeral will take place at 12pm at Newport Crematorium on March 26. All donations made will go to the lymphoma and leukaemia development fund.