Claire Millar's friends mourn 'one of a kind' teacher loved by so many
A mother-of-two who died from cancer has been described as "a wonderful person, dedicated teacher and caring mum to her boys" and "a kind soul taken too soon".
Claire Millar (48), a primary one teacher at Abbey Primary School in her native Newtownards, and coach at Ards Ladies Junior Hockey Club, passed away peacefully at home on Saturday.
Her death has prompted a mass outpouring of grief from devastated friends offering their condolences as well as heartbroken parents of children whose lives she touched throughout her career.
Mrs Millar's eldest son, Conor, a dentistry student, thanked everyone for their kind words and thoughts as the family comes to terms with their loss.
"Massive thanks to everyone who has messaged over the last few days, it has been much appreciated and a massive comfort to know how much people care and how well thought-of mum was," he posted on Facebook.
Her funeral is due to take place today at First Presbyterian Church in Newtownards.
Mrs Millar, who helped in the creche in the children's church, is survived by her husband Colin (53), principal at Killard House School in Donaghadee, her sons Conor (22) and Ryan (19), her parents Hugh and Margaret, sister Kathryn and brother David. Abbey Primary School posted a poignant message saying it was "truly heartbroken".
"It is with deep regret and devastation that we inform you of the passing of our close friend, colleague and outstanding P1 teacher Mrs Millar," it said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Colin, sons Conor and Ryan, parents, extended family and every member of the Abbey School family at this time. We are all truly heartbroken".
Hundreds of tributes have been paid online to the popular hockey coach.
Among them was one from Jude Fowler, who expressed devastation at the loss of a "beautiful lady who went over and above her duty as a teacher".
Describing her as "such a wonderful person, dedicated teacher and caring mum to her boys", Janice MacArthur added: She gave her all to everything she did and always with a smile.
"My heart goes out to Colin, Conor and Ryan and Claire's family circle as well as my former colleagues in Abbey Primary School."
Ards Ladies Hockey Club Juniors wrote: "Claire had been a club member for many years but made a huge impact as our key Under 11 coach in the Junior Club.
"An enthusiastic player on our 4ths and 5ths, Claire gave 100%, in every game. She always had a smile on her face and would have gone anywhere on a Saturday to help out a team. She was a fantastic ambassador.
"Her approach to the game and the effort she put into every match set an example for those around her, young and old.
"Claire will be greatly missed by so many of us at Ards LHC."
Close friend Angela Hamilton added: "Claire was most definitely one of a kind.
"She was always thinking of others even throughout her illness. There wasn't a day in the years that I have known her that I didn't see her smile.
"She was so proud of her boys who are a credit to her and Colin.
"Sleep tight Claire, we will miss you more than you could ever know."
Rosalind Sloan said: "Heartbreaking news of such a wonderful lady and teacher who showed so much courage and strength right to the end, always with the biggest smile."
Meanwhile, Gillian Murphy added: "I hope that Colin, Conor and Ryan take comfort at this incredibly sad time from all the comments posted by the Abbey Primary school community.
"Claire has made such a special impact to so many.
"She was a fantastic mentor, colleague and coach at Ards Ladies Junior Hockey club.
"Huge respect for a caring and supportive lady who will be missed by friends and protégés at ALHC."