Mourners at the funeral of a Co Antrim teacher who helped inspire Liam Neeson to take up acting has heard how he was a storyteller and man who empowered others.
Family and friends of Gerry McKeown gathered in Rasharkin on Monday to say their final farewells.
Mr McKeown, who was originally from Ballymena, passed away peacefully in hospital on Thursday.
Priest Fr Liam Blayney told the congregation of how Mr McKeown, a former English teacher at St Patrick’s College in Ballymena, was a man with a love for literature and storytelling.
“He took time to listen to stories,” he said.
“He was fond of listening to them, he was fond of reading stories because he was a man of books, many books.
“He was a man of poets and he had a particular love for Seamus Heaney and many others as well and often quoted them.”
It was this love of literature that he passed onto his pupils, including Ballymena-born Hollywood star Neeson.
He previously praised Mr McKeown for helping to inspire him to become an actor.
In a letter sent to his former school to mark its 45th anniversary, Neeson wrote: “The school effectively formed the person I am today and through my English teacher at the time, Gerry McKeown, I found my profession in life.”
Fr Blayney also told mourners of how Mr McKeown “struck his own note” and had a great way of “advising us and a way of encouraging us to be true to ourselves”.
“I think that’s what he did first of all in his season of being a teacher at St Patrick’s Ballymena,” he said.
“He taught along with my father and brother and he met up with my brother again at times of drama and they did the ‘Playboy of the Western World’, which was to light maybe a dark time, but a very poetic time in our history and the history of the islands.
“Empowering people and that is what people like (Seamus) Heaney and Gerry did, they were empowered people.
“You have listened long enough, now hit your own note and find the courage to be true to yourself.
“I believe that is what Gerry did.”
He said Mr McKeown was dedicated to the “growth and development” of his pupils and his family and would be remembered as a “storyteller”.
The priest added: “Many of us have been taught be our parents, taught the faith, taught about living and loving and caring and loving joy in our lives and in our hearts.
“I always found Gerry had that in him.”
Following the service, Mr McKeown was buried in the adjoining cemetery.
He is survived by his wife Veronica, children Grainne and Damian and the wider family circle.