Tributes to Bangor model agency boss Edna Gillen who dies aged 53
A former top Northern Ireland model who died last week will be remembered for her "elegance, sense of fun and creativity", her children have said.
Edna Gillen (53) from Ballyholme in Bangor lost her two-year battle with breast cancer on Thursday.
She was married for 25 years to hairdresser Gary (64), who owns George's Salon in Belfast, and was mother to Nick (27), Faith (22) and Nina (18).
Mrs Gillen started modelling aged 16 and quickly built a successful career from her chiselled looks, dark cropped hair and svelte 5ft 8ins frame.
A catwalk model, she loved the industry and counted Orla Kiely and Iris Apfel amongst her favourite designers.
In 2008 she co-founded Models-eg, Northern Ireland's first agency to specialise in older models, and would often take part in shoots and hair shows.
A former pupil of Methodist College, Mrs Gillen's other passion was for books. An avid reader, she worked as manager of Bangor Library and had planned to publish a novel.
She had also recently taken up art classes to develop her painting and had wanted to set up a blog about the psychology of beauty to help others who were undergoing gruelling treatments.
Daughter Faith said: "She was very elegant and stylish with an infectious personality. Mum was very creative and was very interested in writing, books and art. Writing really helped her.
"She had a great sense of humour and was always laughing, she made everyone feel comfortable. Mum loved everything about fashion, style and clothes and when she got to a certain age, she wanted to continue modelling, so she set up the agency.
"She didn't believe in ageism or that age was a barrier to beauty, she believed that style was ageless."
Determined not to let cancer get her down, Mrs Gillen attended a family wedding only a week ago wearing her favourite six-inch Prada heels.
Other daughter Nina added: "She was very determined to attend that she left hospital for the day - she looked stunning.
"As we look through old photos, she looked great, even in the Eighties with the crazy hair, she still looked fantastic. Style was important to her.
"Mum was always laughing and smiling and even if she had known that her time was limited she would still have put her make-up on, looked her best and got on with it, she would not be beaten down." Mr Gillen (64) also paid tribute to "the love of his life", a woman who took on her cancer with a fearless resilience.
He added: "Edna has such a strength of character throughout living with cancer. I don't like to say battling or fighting it - she lived with it. But she would get up and put her lippy on and still meet her friends and live her life.
"She was a typical librarian, she was very organised, she always had two or three books on the go. And she was very beautiful, so photogenic - the camera loved her.
"Her main achievements are the children - she really loved being a mother, she was the mainstay of the home.
"It all happened so quickly but she was very strong to the end.
"It is very difficult. She was a fantastic mother and wife."
A funeral service will be held on Wednesday at 11am at Ballyholme Presbyterian Church. The family request donations in lieu of flowers to the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.