Belfast Telegraph

John Paul Coyle's grieving dad aims to get Derry stepping out in his memory

By Leona O'Neill

The heartbroken father of a Londonderry man who died suddenly in February has called on the city to get behind a charity walk in memory of his 'big gentle giant' son this weekend.

John Paul Coyle (40) died of a massive heart attack at home on February 19.

His father Vincent (65) said that although a light has gone out with his passing, his son's legacy of helping people in need will shine on.

John Paul loved to walk around the city and his father said exercise helped him conquer his alcohol problems.

On Saturday, just days before what would have been his 41st birthday, hundreds of people are expected to walk in JP's footsteps to raise money for one of his favourite charities - St Vincent de Paul.

Vincent said: "It will follow the route of one of John Paul's favourite walks. JP loved to walk as he'd meet so many people to chat to. The amount of stories that I've been told about people having bad days and JP would turn up," Vincent said.

"He had a great understanding of people. John Paul had an alcohol problem in the past. He was sober for 15 years.

"He understood what people were going through and he knew what a bad day was. He would say to people, 'This too will pass' and, 'Just try and see tomorrow, there is a brighter future'.

"He was always so cheery and full of energy. People loved him. I had a big heart operation and he was a tower of strength to me. I kept telling him that he would have to be screened for heart disease as it runs in families. He would tell me he was OK, that he was walking 20 miles a day and taking care of himself.

"JP died of a massive heart attack. He had just come back from the gym, his friend had left him home. He spoke with his friend and told him he would see him at the gym the next morning.

"Then he passed away.

"It was so sudden and so sad that such a bright light could create such a dark void in our lives when it was extinguished.

"JP was 6ft 6ins tall and 21 stone. He was a big strong man, but a big gentle giant.

"He was a steward and he did nightclub security for a pub in the town. Never once did he have to lift his hand. He always had a way of defusing situations.

"He attracted a lot of people to him because he gave them strength. JP always used to say to people, if I can give drink up, you can too.

"He was a very spiritual young man, he attended AA and stuck to the programme. It was tough going for him but he got there.

"How he got through it was he got into the gym, he got back into his boxing, he got out walking and meeting people."

"Since his death I have been approached by so many people John Paul helped on their own journeys to sobriety."

Vincent said that Saturday's event will celebrate his son's life.

"We chose St Vincent de Paul because JP donated to the charity. People have told us that when they were getting off the drink, JP would have introduced them to St Vincent de Paul. It was never a hand out, it was a hand up.

"We want people to come out and walk in John Paul's shoes on Saturday and be part of the day. I know he'll be there walking the road with us. I know he is there because someone is carrying me and my heartbroken family right now, and I know it's him."

The JP Coyle Charity Walk will leave the bottom entrance of Brooke Park this Saturday at 12 noon, taking one of JP's favourite walking routes, out by the Northland Road, Branch Road, Buncrana Road, Strand Road and back to Brooke Park.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for donations on www.gofundme.com/5r4wicg

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