Leslie Steele: Strongman with delicate touch of baker and generous nature
LESLIE Steele was a true gentle giant whose remarkable strength belied the delicate touch of a skilled baker.
The 41-year-old powerlifter, who died of a heart attack just weeks before he was to become a father for the first time, was also known throughout Limavady for his generosity and caring nature.
Born and bred in the Co Derry town, Leslie was a fan of wrestling as a child at Termoncanice PS and St Mary's High and began training as a strongman after going to watch a local event.
He later became involved in powerlifting and, along with his brother Brian, was a medallist at the 2015 World Powerlifting Union Championships among many other achievements.
He was also a finalist several times in the UK Strongest Man competition, with five-time winner Glen Ross describing him as a "true strongman in every sense of the word".
"Leslie was dedicated to his training and his sport. One of my earliest memories of him was when he got up at the crack of dawn to work in the bakery to finish early so he could do strongman event training with the boys at the yard, travelling a two-hours bus journey from Limavady to Bangor.
"He never missed a week and trained hard. Always the life of anywhere he went, we always enjoyed his wit and craic, along with the beautiful banana cake he always brought that he baked that morning.
"A gentleman and friend that will be sorely missed in the strength world."
Leslie's 25-year career with Hunters Bakery in Limavady began with a week's work experience at school.
He trained as a baker in Belfast and was the top student in his year, going on to specialise in the fine art of pastries, confectionary and wedding cakes.
Any time there was a family birthday or wedding, Leslie would step forward and put his creative skills to use.
At his funeral at St Mary's Church, Limavady, Monsignor Bryan McCanny said he was a strong but quiet man who was "a bit like a loaf of wholemeal bread - crusty on the outside and soft on the inside".
"He baked with love - that's why his food was so good and he won so many trophies."
Leslie's family also paid emotional tribute, saying he was a gentle giant who "always thought of others before himself".
His brother Eamon said he was a soft-natured person who made friends with anybody and would have helped anyone in need.
"He always treated his friends very well and our family have been on the receiving end of that now.
"A JustGiving page hit its target within hours and I have just found out that his powerlifting friends are organising a competition in his memory.
"Our mother always said kindness repays kindness and Leslie was kind to everyone and it's now coming back. It's a testament to his character and how good he was to people."
Leslie Steele died suddenly at his home on August 13. He is survived by his partner of Amy, stepchildren Ryan and Ciara, parents Brian and Bernie and siblings Shaun, Tracey, Eamon, Audrey and Brian.