Lives Remembered

Craig Church: Born teacher with a smile to light up any room

Craig Church died aged 27 after a fall from a balcony

MY brother Craig was born to teach.

When he first travelled out to China to work with primary school children, his family worried how he would cope.

Far from home, and with his training limited to adults, he had thrown himself in at the deep end.

But those worries were unfounded - Craig had found his calling. Within two years he was promoted to manager of the school and when relatives saw videos of him in the classroom, it was obvious just how talented he was.

The children adored their Irish teacher, and colleagues were amazed by his ability to incorporate poetry, art and song into his classes.

Craig's sudden death aged 27 after falling from a balcony at an apartment block in the eastern city of Rui'an devastated both his family and many friends back in Portstewart and the new family he had made in his adopted home.

We now take comfort in the enduring bond created by so many messages of love and admiration from China as well as the fact he will always be remembered by his children on the other side of the world.

Craig was born in August 1989, a content and happy baby. His mother Rhonda recalled how she and his father Ian would check his cot because he seldom cried - and almost always discovered him lying peacefully and smiling.

Craig always smiled - a smile that lit up any room.

He grew up in Portstewart and his childhood was filled with joy. Craig credited his mother for nurturing his exceptional creativity and his father for providing so many opportunities for adventure and exploration.

He discovered a talent for skateboarding and through this passion, he made friends that would last the rest of his life.

As his confidence grew, he became the joker among his many groups of friends, his warm nature drawing people towards him.

There was also a softer side to Craig, shown best through his love for animals – from saving injured birds and insects, to owning a multitude of different pets.

In his teenage years, he attended Coleraine Academical Institution and Dominican College, where he became a prefect.

He was very close to his cousin Alyson and together they formed a band which gained a huge local following.

Craig enjoyed writing lyrics and went on to study English Literature and a Master's in Anglo-Irish Literature at the University of Ulster in Coleraine.

While studying, he worked in the local shop, Buds. His happy-go-lucky persona and almost childlike innocence and kindness won the hearts of every customer.

This also resulted in him being nominated and winning the accolade of ‘King of the Portstewart Red Sails Festival', when, much to the amusement of his family and friends, he had his very own coronation – complete with regal garments, a brass band and a procession through the promenade.

Craig completed a course in Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Belfast and loved his life as a teacher, but his main love was ultimately his family.

He was never afraid to express this love or show his pride - a rare quality in a young man.

He went to Northern Ireland and Manchester United matches with his dad, sister, cousins and uncles; he socialised with his sister and cousins; he enjoyed visiting his gran, nana, stepfather, aunts and uncles; and he spent long hours with his artist mum expressing his creativity through drawing and poetry.

His unique personality, warmth, kindness and absolute love for life changed and touched many lives – everybody has their own ‘Craig story'.

His memory will live on through us, and his love will forever comfort.

Carrie Church

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Lives Remembered