Tributes have been paid to the County Secretary of County Antrim's Grand Orange Lodge following his death after contracting Covid-19.
William (Billy) Thompson (74) from Lurgan, died peacefully at Craigavon Area Hospital on Thursday. He had been in intensive care since January 9.
He is survived by his wife Hilda, sons Ian, Clive, Karl and Lee, and the wider family circle.
Mr Thompson's family praised the support and pastoral care given by the staff in Craigavon's ICU and said they recognised that they went above and beyond what was expected of them.
Originally from Ballymena, Mr Thompson was the eldest of 10 and was a driver for Ulsterbus before joining the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service in 1968 where he remained until his retirement.
As well as his work with the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (GOLI) as Co Antrim's Grand Secretary, Mr Thompson was also the chairperson of Broughshane's Royal British Legion.
GOLI Grand Master Edward Stevenson, described Mr Thompson as a "loyal and dedicated Orangeman".
"Billy's dedication to Orangeism was well-known and I know many of our members, particularly those within Co Antrim Grand Lodge where Billy was County Grand Secretary and further afield, will feel this loss deeply," he said.
"Billy was always willing to help and was involved in many areas of the institution's work."
Mr Stevenson added that Mr Thompson was playing a very active role in the GOLI's plans to mark Northern Ireland's centenary. "On behalf of the Orange Institution I tender our sympathies to Billy's wife Hilda and the Thompson family at this very sad time and can assure them of our prayerful support in the days and weeks ahead," he stated.
Mr Thompson regularly called into Carla Lockhart MP's Lurgan office and last visited just before Christmas where he was in "great form".
"I always enjoyed our catch ups, and valued his wise counsel," said Ms Lockhart. "A true Ulsterman, Billy was a straight talker and said it like it is.
"Of course Billy was also a very proud Orangeman. He loved the institution and was passionate about our culture and identity. He played a key role in delivering so much for the Order across Co Antrim and beyond and his legacy will live on for many years.
"My thoughts and prayers are with Hilda and the family at this sad time, and with all those brethren who mourn his passing."
The vice-chairman of Broughshane RBL David Doherty, added that Mr Thompson had always put his "heart and soul into everything he did" and will be sadly missed.
Mr Thompson spoke to the Belfast Telegraph last year about what Co Antrim Orange Lodge had planned ahead of the cancelled Twelfth. He took great pride in the district being the largest in Northern Ireland as five parades were planned to be held in the county, with 25 districts and 7,000 Orangemen.
Mr Thompson's funeral service will take place tomorrow but will be private due to the current government health regulations.
Grand Secretary of the GOLI Mervyn Gibson, who was a close personal friend of Mr Thompson, will be taking part in the service.
Donations in lieu of flowers, if desired, can be made to Air Ambulance NI via Malcomsons Funeral Service, Lurgan.