The sudden and untimely death of Donal Saunders has robbed the community of one of its most compassionate and sensitive citizens.
Donal was an individual of rare kindness, consideration and compassion.
Perhaps Donal’s most remarkable legacy is to be found in the constant, unobtrusive, understated support given to so many people who needed a sympathetic and sincere friend.
He had a wonderful gift for finding those who needed his wise and gentle counsel. Donal was exceptionally generous with his time, and his open hand of friendship was extended to all who needed support and understanding.
This exceptional man possessed a wide range of talents and accomplishments: first and foremost he had a great love for, and pride in his family - Bernie, Catriona, Daniel and David - and his home life. He was a gifted and generous educator from his early days as a teacher in Chapel Road P.S. until his death. His sporting kills were acknowledged and admired by all in the world of football in Derry.
According to one close friend of Donal, he was a hugely gifted player who made it look easy. With a remarkable natural talent, Donal had the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time.
Long after the football days were over, Donal continued to be in the right place at the right time for countless people who sought and received his help. Indeed for Donal, there never seemed to be a wrong time.
It was never too late or too early. He was never too busy or too tired. He was generous to a fault and many of us were blessed to benefit from his support, advice, wisdom and guidance.
Alongside his decency and humanity, Donal was loved for his rich and mischievous humour, which was never unkind, often directed at his own foibles, and frequently deployed skilfully to illuminate a deeper truth.
Donal lived his life with grace, gentleness and honesty and in doing so enriched the lives of all those with whom he came in contact.
For this remarkable, humble and thoroughly good man, the final whistle came much too soon.
It is appropriate that the final tribute should be from his lifelong friend Pat Lynch: “In this brief span of earthly existence our greatest task is to achieve as much humility as possible.
“There can be no absolute humility for us humans.
“At best we can only glimpse the meaning and splendour of such a perfect ideal.
“Donal had travelled a long way down that road, more than anyone else I have ever known. He shunned power, acclaim, wealth and righteousness.
“He recoiled from aggression, revenge and disunity and was a promoter of harmony and love. His greatest strength was in his weaknesses which he was always willing to share with those who needed to hear.
“He found self-concern and importance amusing and I remember him telling me: ‘don’t forget, if you win the rat race you’re still a rat’.
“His avoidance of spiritual pride and arrogance coupled with his willingness to always forgive allowed him to know serenity and legitimate joy.
“All these qualities have impacted on the many, many people he came in contact with and it is in them his legacy lies.
“A true friend.”