Belfast Telegraph

Roisin whispered a tender goodbye to the 'gentle husband' Jonathan Peden she wed just weeks ago

Donaghcloney village in sombre mood as hundreds of mourners pay tribute to man killed in accident at engineering company

By Ivan Little

Grieving widow Roisin Peden bravely stood in front of hundreds of mourners in a Co Down church yesterday to bid a poignant farewell to the 'love of her life' who she buried just five short weeks after marrying him.

And Roisin, who proposed to Jonathan Peden via Facebook, described her husband as "an amazing, gentle man".

In her brief but moving tribute at the Elim Church in Donaghcloney, Roisin said their time together had been short but she added that neither she nor Jonathan had any doubts about their feelings of love for each other.

"I'm going to miss you," she whispered and for a fleeting moment it looked like her composure might waver.

But she fought back the tears and shortly afterwards, clutching a handkerchief tightly in her left hand, Roisin walked with her eyes fixed on her husband's coffin in front of her as the cortege eased its way slowly down the main street of his home village, not far from Lurgan where Jonathan died in a workplace accident last Thursday.

The church had been too small to accommodate everyone who wanted to pay their respects to Jonathan, whose death at Little Electrical Engineers in Lurgan's Queen's Place is being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.

Shirt-sleeved mourners who stood outside the church listened to a broadcast of the service through loudspeakers in the summer sunshine, the sort of weather that Roisin and Jonathan would have welcomed as they exchanged their vows in Craigavon civic centre last month.

On the lamp posts, Northern Ireland football flags from the European championships still fluttered proudly, but the mood was sombre yesterday in Donaghcloney, where Jonathan had grown up, was educated and where, as a teenager, he had his first job in a shop opposite the Elim Church.

Jonathan (33) was an enthusiastic runner, as well as a fanatical Blackburn Rover supporter.

And the Lancashire football club were praised during the funeral service for their response to their dedicated supporter's passing.

Pastor Ken Davidson said the club had sent a representative to Northern Ireland with a special personalised club shirt for Jonathan, who regularly went to see Blackburn games.

"That was a lovely gesture," he said. "They didn't post it. They sent someone on the plane to bring it."

Jonathan's death was front pages news in Blackburn, where the local newspaper recounted how his family wanted to bury him in the Rovers top which had his name emblazoned on the back, alongside a number one.

Jonathan was secretary of a Blackburn Rovers supporters club in Northern Ireland. And the Ewood Park side issued a statement regretting his 'untimely' death, adding: "We are deeply shocked and saddened. Jonathan made frequent visits to our games and was widely known among our fans and by staff at the club."

Fans in England also took to social media to express their shock at Jonathan's death.

During yesterday's funeral service, his brother Adam told mourners that Jonathan had always looked after him, and when he took him to his first Blackburn Rovers match on a cold Saturday he spent £200 on a taxi so that his youngest sibling wouldn't have to get a bus back to the Liverpool ferry.

Another brother, Andrew, read a poem for Jonathan and said that he would always be in his heart. Paul Silcock, a friend of Jonathan's from the electrical firm in Lurgan where the fatal accident took place, sang a song for his colleague and said he was a popular, hard-working man whose passion for running was infectious.

A photo of Jonathan finishing a recent City Park Run in Craigavon adorned the front cover of the order of service for the thanksgiving in the Elim church, during which it was revealed that Roisin had shared Jonathan's passion and had actually met him during one running event. Pastor Davidson said she knew instantly that he was the man for her and he helped her through difficult times.

The cleric added that Roisin's Facebook proposal to him read: "How about you and me getting married?" Mourners laughed as Pastor Davidson said Jonathan's reply after several hours was "Aye, okay then."

The pastor said that just days before his death that the couple attended a service in his church and that Jonathan held his wife's hand the whole time.

Pastor Davidson added that Jonathan's brother Andrew joked with him that his wife wasn't going anywhere and that the his show of affection would soon die down. "Jonathan said, 'No, it won't. Never'," said the pastor, who added that Jonathan's life had not only been taken away by the tragedy of last Thursday morning, but many other lives had also been changed and devastated forever.

However, he told mourners: "Roisin says she will always have a piece of Jonathan with her."

The pastor said the couple had been hoping to run in next year's London Marathon. He added Jonathan had enjoyed the happiest time of his time of his life with Roisin and he was the step-father to two young children, Laura and Shane.

The pastor said that Jonathan's achievements as a runner who constantly wanted to improve on his personal best times, were all the more remarkable because 12 years ago he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a bone condition which affected his legs, but which had at first been thought to be cancer.

"His parents Geoffrey and Sandra were told that it could still take his life. It was serious," said Pastor Davidson, who added that Jonathan had recovered and along the way had found Christianity.

Pastor Davidson said Jonathan's family, friends, fellow runners, workmates and neighbours were all of the one mind - that he was a good, unassuming and 'ordinary' man.

"They all say he was a big, tall gentleman who was kind, quiet and loving and wore his heart on his sleeve. But we can say to you Jonathan that you have left your mark on many hearts."

After the service, Jonathan was buried in Donaghcloney's Presbyterian Churchyard.

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