A FRIEND of the self-proclaimed ‘Ambassador of Bradford’ has paid tribute to him in the week he would have turned 40.

David Houston, the former assistant accommodation manager for the University of Bradford and who helped create its student village The Green, died of coronavirus in May after a five-week battle with the disease.

He would have been 40 on Wednesday and good friend Mark Garratt remembered him this week.

Mr Garratt, a former director of External Affairs at the University, said Mr Houston’s death was a big loss to all those who knew the popular man.

He said: “He was a larger-than-life character.

“He had a long stint at Bradford University and was a proud Bradfordian.”

He said he was well known and liked by generations of students after undertaking a lot of international trips to publicise the university and was a warm-up man for the university’s graduation ceremonies.

“No-one had a bad word for him. He was a funny man.”

Mr Garratt said they both attended the Bradford Park Avenue match on March 14 and he thought both of them and another friend all contracted coronavirus that day.

Mr Garratt fell sick shortly afterwards and after getting confirmation from his GP contacted Mr Houston who said he was also feeling unwell.

He was taken to hospital and underwent treatment at four hospitals including being put in an induced coma and receiving a blood transfusion but passed away on May 6 at Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester.

Mr Garratt said his friend was a big guy and he felt “that was part of his downfall”.

He himself lost two stones in three weeks and it had taken him quite a while to recover.

In an emotional blog post soon afterwards he said: “Exactly a week ago my wonderful friend David Houston’s life support machine was turned off after a five-week battle against Covid-19, and he passed away. This deadly virus has taken too many people’s lives, and for David to be taken from this world at the age of 39 is utterly tragic.

“He was a friend and colleague to a great number of us, but he was also a man who touched the lives of everyone he met. There are very few people who could light up a room like him. I’ve met some incredible people in my life, but I genuinely can’t think of anyone else with such charisma, sharp humour and ability to turn the most mundane of subjects into ones that ended up having you in tears of laughter. Once met never forgotten.

“A lot of people who may read this blog will have known him as the self-proclaimed ‘Ambassador of Bradford’ . He was the front man for The Green accommodation at the University of Bradford, as well as being the ‘warm up act’ for all our Graduation events.

“He travelled the length and breadth of the world as our ‘salesman in chief’ on international student recruitment trips, and had the ability to convince many students (and their parents) that they should study at the University of Bradford – I personally saw him in action in a number of countries and his persuasiveness was frightening!!

“Latterly he joined Leeds Beckett University in their international office, and I know he gave them the same gusto that he did at Bradford (despite his heart remaining in his home city of course!).

“In the past week, I’ve seen many posts on social media, reminiscing about the awesome times people had with the great man – I have way too many to list myself, but the common theme throughout, is of a man who was the life and soul of any event, could shoot you down with his razor sharp wit, but underneath had the biggest heart you will ever come across.

“He cared, he really cared about people. The students at the University of Bradford adored him, as I’m sure they did at Leeds Beckett.

“Whilst I had a hugely debilitating experience, I now feel I cheated death at the age of 54. One week after I became symptomatic, I phoned my GP and he confirmed that I had the virus, so I contacted David to make sure he was aware. Within five days of contacting him, he was in ICU in hospital fighting for his life.

“On my phone, I have the final texts between us, which are deeply upsetting when I read them back. The last text I ever sent him on Tuesday 31st March read ‘Text when you’re home mate’. This text will haunt me forever…..

“What the great man gave us all was boundless enthusiasm for life and care for others. If we can all continue his legacy, then we can make the world a better place after we recover from this human crisis.

"David Houston was a very special man that will be missed by many people.

“Mr Houston – thank you for the incredible memories. Rest in peace my friend.”