Belfast Telegraph

Family 'overwhelmed' by tributes as anti-addiction pioneer dies suddenly

By David Young

Tributes have been paid to an anti-addiction pioneer who died suddenly on Thursday.

Adrian McKelvey (65) died after collapsing following a sudden illness at his home in Ballymena.

Local ambulance paramedics worked to revive him and the Air Ambulance was summoned but Mr McKelvey's life could not be saved.

Mr McKelvey was a founding member of PAUSE, a support group for people in the Ballymena area suffering from addiction-related problems, and currently served as secretary of the group.

A private and modest man who shunned the limelight, Adrian McKelvey had in his past battled alcohol addiction and was determined to reach out and help others who were struggling with addiction issues.

Just last year, Mr McKelvey and his wife Ann attended a Buckingham Palace garden party when the group was awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

Last night his son Stephen said the family had been taken aback by the outpouring of warmth and support they had received from the community in their time of grief.

"We've been overwhelmed by the response of the community," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Dad was the type of guy who didn't seek any limelight.

"He preferred to work behind the scenes, just getting things done. In fact, he had to be pushed into to going to London last year to received the award from the Queen. But I'm so glad that he did."

John Keenan, chairman of PAUSE Ballymena, paid tribute to Mr McKelvey's work with the anti-addiction charity.

"He was a wonderful person. We all feel his loss deeply," he said.

"I couldn't speak highly enough of Adrian. He had a heart of corn, as they say around this part of the world. He would have done anything for anybody with an addiction. He would have travelled miles to help and often did, sitting with addicts, supporting them, talking with them, encouraging them. He was wonderful. He was a great man with people."

Mr Keenan said that Mr McKelvey's anti-addiction work had touched many lives for the better.

"I worked with Adrian for almost a decade and he was a guy that really wanted to understand how addictions worked and how people with addiction could be helped.

"The idea that we came up with was that addiction is not a single issue - it's part of a life.

"In order to treat an addiction, you have to treat the whole person. There is no magic wand that can be waved that will let people get on with their life.

"Adrian was available to anyone in the area who needed his help - he gave his time unstintingly."

Mr McKelvey originally came from Ballymoney and had moved to Ballymena when he married.

Former mayor of Ballymena, councillor Audrey Wales last night paid tribute to Mr McKelvey and his work in the Ballymena area.

Sending her sympathy and condolences to his family, she told the Belfast Telegraph: "I had known Adrian for a long time and I'm very sorry to hear the sad news of his passing.

"He was involved in work of great value to the community in Ballymena and will be very badly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Mr McKelvey is survived by his wife Ann, son Stephen and grandchildren Dylan and Leah.

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