Campaigning dad of Disappeared IRA victim dies aged 93
The funeral will take place today of a "wonderful, kind and civil" victims' campaigner whose son was murdered and secretly buried by the IRA.
Walter Simons (93), who passed away at his home in Newcastle on Sunday, was praised for his lifelong support for other families, even after his own son Eugene was found.
Plumber Eugene Simons (26) went missing near his home in Castlewellan on New Year's Day 1981.
His body was discovered by chance three years later in a bog in Co Louth.
Mr Simons' remains will leave his daughter Sheila's home in Bryansford, Co Down, today for noon Requiem Mass in St Patrick's Church, with burial in the adjoining cemetery.
A family notice described him as the beloved husband of the late Mary and loving father of Moira, Patricia, Angela, Brian, Nuala, Brendan, Maureen, Sheila, Geraldine, Pauline, Oonagh and the late Eugene.
The Wave Trauma Centre has been among those praising his commitment to victims.
A message on the group's Facebook page read: "He attended every Mass and travelled to each of the search sites if possible.
"He never forgot the struggle and turmoil the families faced in searching for their loved ones.
"Despite recent ill health he still asked about the ongoing search for Columba McVeigh. The McVeigh family were never far from his thoughts.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Simons family. Walter will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace."
Columba McVeigh's brother Oliver called Mr Simons "a wonderful man" who had helped tirelessly with the search for the Disappeared.
"We all appreciated that," he added.
"It was just nice to have that and we visited him a few weeks ago when he wasn't well.
"We're very sorry to see his passing.
"He was just a wonderful, kind and civil man, as well as being fair and honest."
Artist Colin Davidson captured Mr Simons on canvas for his Silent Testimony collection, portraits of 18 people who had experienced loss during the Troubles.
Mr Davidson added his own tribute yesterday, posting the portrait on Twitter with the message: "Rest in peace dear Walter."
At the age of 92 Mr Simons wrote a book about his early life - Dundrum Village Remembered.
The proceeds raised were divided between Wave Trauma Centre and Action Cancer NI.
Last month a search resumed for Columba McVeigh's remains in bogland in Co Monaghan, after previously being called off due to bad weather.
This followed a new reward from an anonymous donor of $60,000 (£47,539) for information that results in the recovery of the three remaining Disappeared: Mr McVeigh, Joe Lynskey and soldier Robert Nairac.