‘He was a big man with a big personality, just a great guy’

Tom Anderson with his eldest daughter, Isobel.
Tom Anderson with his eldest daughter, Isobel.

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a popular Dromore man who, following the tragic sudden death of his 10-year-old daughter last year, helped raise thousands of pounds to ensure all schools and nurseries in the town have access to a life-saving defibrillator.

Tom Anderson passed away “suddenly but peacefully” at his home in Dromore on July 13 – just six days before he would have celebrated his 51st birthday.

Tom Anderson with his eldest daughter, Isobel.

Tom Anderson with his eldest daughter, Isobel.

His death was the second devastating loss the family have suffered in less than a year.

Mr Anderson’s eldest daughter Isobel passed away after suffering a cardiac arrest in the playground at Dromore Central Primary School in September.

In the weeks and months after the P7 pupil’s tragic passing, Mr Anderson and his family supported fundraising efforts towards the purchase of defibrillators for the several schools in the local area.

A large turnout of mourners gathered at Dromore Cathedral on Wednesday afternoon for a service of thanksgiving for Mr Anderson’s life.

They heard the Dean, the Very Rev Geoff Wilson, describe him as “a big man with a huge heart” who was “a devoted husband” to Heidi and “a proud father” to Isobel, Mary, Tess and Kate.

The service heard how Tom Anderson was born in Newtownards in July 1967 and grew up with his sister Karen on The Model Farm, Saintfield.

He was educated at Carryduff Primary School and Annadale Grammar School. He attended Boardmills Presbyterian Church and was a committed member of the church’s Boys’ Brigade Company who loved playing sport, particularly rugby and later golf.

The Dean told how Tom met Heidi in 2004, fell in love and how they got married two years later. He said with the arrival of their four daughters “the dream was complete for Tom”.

Rev Wilson spoke about Mr Anderson’s love for his family, friends and his local community, describing him as “very much a hands-on father who only ever wanted the best for his girls.”

Mourners heard how his heart was broken when Isobel died so unexpectedly last September.

Four of his friends from school – Mark, Johnny, Paul and Lawrence – also spoke at the funeral service, each paying a personal tribute, sharing some of their fondest memories of their “brother”.

Tom was described as “the ultimate people person” and a man of “great inner strength” who was always there when family or friends needed him.

“Alas the whole dynamic of our lives has undergone a seismic shift and there’s now a huge void in all our lives – the void left by the man who was like a brother to the four of us and by the man we are all proud to call our friend,” Paul said.

Lawrence told of how Tom helped him in his education and career, concluding with a poem which ended: “Tom Anderson, you are a star and your love will always shine.”

The 50-year-old worked in the transport industry his whole adult life; he had been at Ballynure-based Woodside Haulage for almost 30 years.

The transport manager was a popular member of staff, well liked by his colleagues, who described him as “a lovely guy” and “a real gentleman”.

Company director Mark Woodside said: “We are all absolutely devastated by Tom’s passing. He first joined us in 1988 and, apart from for a brief time, he worked here for the thick end of 30 years.

“He was very loyal, very hard working and a great personality. He was a big man with a big personality. He was just a great guy.”

Dromore DUP councillor, Alderman Paul Rankin, said Mr Anderson’s sudden passing had left the local community “shocked and saddened”, and extended his “heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends at this sad time”.

Mr Anderson’s widow Heidi, sister Karen and the family circle have thanked all those who have given or offered support in the past few days, saying it has been “invaluable and deeply appreciated.”