Tribute paid as funeral held of Strabane Special Olympics stalwart
Thursday, 9 March 2017
THE funeral has taken place of a well-known local man who dedicated many years of his life to volunteering with the Special Olympics Group in Strabane.
Francis Henderson, of Melmount Villas, Strabane, and formerly of Meenashesk Place, was laid to rest on Monday in St Mary's Church in the town after he sadly passed away on Saturday, March 4, at the Foyle Hospice.
Born on October 21, 1951, he spent his working life as a baker, starting his career in Russells and later working in Omagh and Cookstown.
As well as taking an active interest in sport through the Special Olympics Group he was also a man of the parish and worked as a promoter for the draw event.
Officiating at his funeral service, Rev Michael Doherty gave a touching tribute to him. He said: "This church was an important place for him. He was baptised and confirmed here. He attended Sunday Mass here. When it came to the great day of his marriage on April 9, 1996, the scene changed to Sacred Heart Church, Derry Road, as it was easier for Marie to walk up the aisle in that church.
"He worked for the parish as a promoter for the draw and even in his last illness he was concerned that his regular clients would be entered in this year's draw.
"But his greatest living was in his association with the athletes and sportsmen and women of Special Olympics Ireland in training, supporting, encouraging, organising and fundraising. It was a very genuine labour of love for him for many years and helped him to in some way fill a gap caused by the death of Marie in July 2009."
Fr Doherty added: "Francis Henderson would not believe that he did anything outstanding in life; he would have felt that he was doing his duty, but those who knew him would probably tell a different story. We pray this morning that he will now be rewarded for his quiet life of faithful service."
Describing Mr Henderson as 'one in a million', friend and fellow volunteer at Strabane Special Olympics Group, Andy Patton, also paid tribute to the much-loved member of the community.
Francis had been a long-standing member of the group for many years and according to Mr Patton was a 'selfless' person.
"He was a man for all occasions and he was a man who you wouldn't ask twice to do something," said Mr Patton.
"He gave all his spare time to the Special Olympics Group. He was courteous but he was also sympathetic to all the young people. He had a great rapport with the youngsters and they doted on him.
"I have only known him these last three or four years with the Special Olympics Group but he became a very good friend. He put everyone first rather than himself and he was a very selfless person.
"I have learned a lot from him and that's a big thing, he was a great person. I can't say enough for him, he was just one in a million. I don't know how they (the Special Olympics Group) are going to replace him.
"He was always there, it didn't matter where they had to go or what time, he was there. He drove the bus and took them everywhere and travelled the length and breadth of Ireland with them."
Francis was the beloved husband of the late Marie, son of the late George and Bridie Henderson and dearly loved brother of Donna, Angela, Bernie, Geraldine, Gerry and Yvonne.
Donations in lieu of flowers during the funeral were donated to Strabane Special Olympics Group.
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