Hundreds of people gathered at Long Tower Church yesterday to say their final farewell to Derry man Bill Keys.
The father of four passed away suddenly on Thursday night.
During the past few days moving tributes have been paid to the well known retired SDLP councillor, whose daughter Margaret, is a renowned soprano who has performed all over the world.
Nobel Laureate John Hume was among the mourners at St Columba’s Church, Long Tower.
Family friend Father Gerard Mongan revealed how he had been with the Keys family on Thursday night.
“I had called in and Bill was in great form,” said Father Mongan. “He was his usual jovial self. He went to do a few messages while I stayed with his wife Mary. We then got the word through that Bill had collapsed.
“Within minutes we had gathered around Bill. In the space of a few minutes happiness had turned to heartbreak.”
The Derry priest said he thanked God for a “warm hearted man who gave so generously of himself in so many different ways.
“Bill’s magnetic and dynamic presence, his warm personality and his sense of humour made him great company. Bill won many friends and was a man who was highly respected.
“One cannot quantify what he did for the Long Tower Parish through the years as a dedicated and enthusiastic parish worker; his wise counsel and honest practical advice and help was much sought after.”
MP Mark Durkan described Bill as “a man of utmost decency, passionate in his causes, but never prejudiced in his outlook.
He added: “As a public representative and in all his work to encourage enterprise he proved his regard for others and his belief in betterment for our city.
“In some of the worst years of the Troubles and the harsh economic climate of the Thatcher years he pushed a positive economic and civic agenda.
“His role in fostering small business, establishing Euro Centre West, supporting sport and youth work, and promoting community relations and a strong civic agenda through difficult times is well-appreciated.”
SDLP former Mayor Pat Ramsey said: “Bill’s family, friends and neighbours are in a state of shock at his untimely death.
“Bill was a well known, highly regarded and respected member of the community in which he lived and his pride and joy was being a Eucharistic Minister in the Long Tower Church, helping out more recently with guided tours for groups.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mary, children Rosemary, Margaret, Tina and William, hoping that they can come to terms with this tragic loss of a loving husband, dedicated and very proud father, and the ultimate gentleman.”