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Tributes to brain tumour dad Gary Kernaghan who defied illness to run race

By Joanne Feming

Published 23/04/2015

Gary Kernagahan and his wife Tracey Brown Kernagahan in a treasured family photograph
Gary Kernagahan and his wife Tracey Brown Kernagahan in a treasured family photograph

Warm tributes have been paid to a father-of-three who has died after battling a brain tumour.

Popular Co Fermanagh man Gary Kernaghan (44) became well known for his bravery after collapsing during a charity run and later returning to complete the race.

The former UDR and Royal Irish Regiment soldier took a seizure half-way round the Ballinamallard 10k in 2011 and was found to have a brain tumour, which was later operated on.

He fought back to fitness and crossed the finishing line in May 2012 while raising money for Brain Tumour UK.

Mr Kernaghan's health would later worsen and he died on Tuesday. His funeral will take place in his home village of Ballinamallard today.

The dedicated family man, who had worked as a HGV driver, leaves his wife Tracey and children Alex, Nikki and George.

Former school friend, DUP MLA Arlene Foster, paid a personal tribute.

"I learnt of something which sadly I knew was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to hear," she said. "A lovely husband, father and primary school friend, Gary Kernaghan has passed away after the most brave battle. To his devoted wife Tracey Brown Kernaghan, his beautiful children and his siblings, I am so very sorry that he has left this earth way too soon, but be proud, be very proud that he was who he was."

Mrs Foster said that her friend had suffered a number of tragedies in his life, including his father being shot by the IRA while he was at primary school.

"He was a tremendously brave individual," she said. "He was always very open with his kids about the disease he had. He was always interested in what his children were doing. He was just a lovely man. It is a terrible tragedy involving someone so young."

UUP MLA Tom Elliott, also from Ballinamallard, said that Mr Kernaghan was well known throughout Fermanagh.

"I have known Gary for many, many years, he was a really nice fellow. He was a really genuine person, very much a family man and I know he raised money for Brain Tumour UK. He was very active and running was a hobby. He did a lot of community work as well. He was friendly, people liked him and he got on with everybody."

Friend Bert Johnston said Ballinamallard was feeling the loss deeply.

He said: "We were both members of the Northern Ireland Caravan and Camping Club, though his health meant he was unable to attend recently.

"He would have been into exercise but was very much a family man, an outgoing person full of life. He was a very cheerful person who made a great contribution to the community. We are very saddened to hear of his death."

Richard Devlin of The Brain Tumour Charity in Northern Ireland said: "We were very sorry to hear of Gary's death. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. Gary's decision to return and finish the Ballinamallard 10k in 2012, less than a year after his brain tumour diagnosis, was an inspiration to many. We were so grateful for his fundraising efforts, which helped us to help others affected by brain tumours."

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