FROM the beginning of his working life as a collier's help in the 1930s to - until September this year - being one of Britain's oldest shopworkers, Reg Buttress was "an ordinary man who lived an extraordinary life", mourners at his funeral were told.

More than 150 people, including family, friends and colleagues from the Sainsbury store in Cwmbran where he worked until his 94th birthday, attended a funeral service for Mr Buttress at the Salvation Army Mission Hall in Wesley Street, Cwmbran.

Mr Buttress hit the headlines last summer when he announced that he would be retiring from his job at the supermarket - which included greeting customers - after 37 years, on his birthday.

That day came with much fanfare in September, but sadly, Mr Buttress died just two months later, on November 20.

Major Stuart Ashman, officiating, told the congregation Mr Buttress had been born in Pontypool, the eldest of three children, and had been a favourite of an aunt who used to warm his cap before he went off to school.

A working life spanning a little more than 70 years began aged 13 as a collier's help at Hafodyrynys Colliery. After being made redundant, and with no job prospects locally, "he cycled to Birmingham, as you do," said Major Ashman.

There he got a factory job, returning to south Wales during the Second World War.

He found work on the railways, later becoming a train driver.

A job at ICI followed, until 1979, when another redundancy was followed by two years out of work.

Then came the Sainsburys job that Mr Buttress found it hard to leave. His 37 years at the store was punctuated by six weeks of retirement in 1988 before, bored of a life of leisure, he asked to return.

Major Ashman said Mr Buttress had loved the media attention that surrounded his recent retirement, and added: "But he inspires people because he is an ordinary man with an extraordinary story."

Grandsons Aneurin, Talfryn and Tomos Buttress provoked laughter and tears with their stories of the man they called Reg, whom they described as "selfless, fun, and devoted to his family".

Mr Buttress and wife Gwen, who died in 2010, were married for 65 years, and have a son, Michael.

He was a rugby referee for more than 30 years, and an avid follower of Pontypool RFC and Wales, and the hymns in the service were also a reference to the sounds to be heard booming from the stands ahead of home Wales international matches - Calon Lan and Guide Me, O Though Great Jehovah (Bread of Heaven).

The service concluded with a Bryn Terfel recording of Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, before a short committal service at Gwent Crematorium.