A true gentleman and champion of the people — that’s how one councillor described a former Mayor of Castlereagh who died on Tuesday.
Councillor Lawrence Walker, well known in local football circles, passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was 59.
A service of thanksgiving for his life is being held at Ravenhill Presbyterian Church, Ravenhill Road, today (Thursday 11) at 10.30am. Castlereagh Borough Council held a special meeting to pay tribute to him yesterday evening.
Co-opted on to the council when party leader Peter Robinson resigned because of Government duties, Mr Walker was elected Mayor in 2009-10 undergoing treatment during his year in office.
A devout Christian, he worked tirelessly to raise funds for his nominated charity, Compassion UK, raising over £15,000.
A past pupil of Orangefield School, Mr Walker became a City Council employee, graduating to head of contracts leisure and then manager of a number of leisure centres including Avoniel.
Football was his passion — he was coach at Ballyclare Comrades and Ards and took charge of various Irish FA courses at all levels.
DUP leader Peter Robinson, led the tributes: “Those of us who knew Lawrence, know that he has been battling illness for a long time. He bravely faced the ravages of cancer and was an inspiration to all who he met.
“I am deeply saddened by his death. Lawrence's passing is a great blow.”
Mayor of Castlereagh, Councillor Vivienne McCoy said: “Lawrence was a true gentleman and champion of the people and Castlereagh has lost one of its leading lights. Every elected member on the council, irrespective of party, is devastated by the news of his passing. Lawrence was a man of great Christian values and always sought to honour the Lord in everything that he did.”
“He will be sadly missed by all the Members, Officers and staff of Castlereagh Borough Council and I send sincere sympathy to his widow Barbara, sons Graham and Clive, daughter Amy and the entire family circle. .
Roy Millar, former Irish Football Association director of coaching, now in south Africa, said: “The word gentleman is so often incorrectly used, yet it aptly sums up Lawrence.
“He was a real gentleman whose passing leaves a void in the Northern Ireland game. A major loss to us all.”
Nigel Best, IFA performance manager, added: “He made a major contribution to coach education with the Irish FA on their various courses and was highly respected among managers, coaches and players. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”