Paul Russell from Dromore: Man with rare genetic condition ‘inspired anyone who knew him’

The sense of “fun-loving determination” of a young Dromore man who died this week will forever be his legacy, his former principal has said.

Paul Russell passed away peacefully in his sleep at his Dromore home on Monday, aged 23.

He lived with the rare genetic condition ‘Aperts Syndrome’ but his physical challenges didn’t stop him from giving a television piano recital, rubbing shoulders with the famous and travelling the world.

A family notice said Paul was the “precious son of Ronnie and Jane, loving brother of Suzanne and Christine, brother-in-law of Stuart and Uncle of Ivy and Anna”.

Tributes have been paid to young Dromore man Paul Russell, 23, who passed away peacefully this week.

Sharon Beattie, friend of the family and his former principal at Dromore Nursery School, said that “his amazing smile, sense of humour, warmth and fun loving determination will forever be his legacy in the school”. 

She added: “I count it a privilege to have been part of Paul’s life and am humbled and honoured to know this family, my life is richer as a result thank you for sharing Paul with me.”

Despite his condition, his many physical problems and multiple surgeries never held him back, his family told the News Letter in a statement.

In education he demonstrated “determination and a zest for life”, starting at Dromore Nursery School, and then continuing on to Carrick Primary School in Lurgan and Banbridge High School.

“Through the years his smile was contagious, he never complained and he lived happy and carefree. This was nationally recognised when he won the ‘Young Persons Award’ in the UTV/U105 Spirit of NI Awards in 2011.

“He thrilled TV audiences to a piano recital, a talent he developed through the Patricia Hamilton School of music and supported by his two sisters Suzanne and Christine. He excelled beyond expectation in music given his physical difficulties.”

He was also a passionate follower of Glenavon FC, known to players and fans alike, attending many home and away matches with his dad and sister Suzanne. He served as the team mascot on several occasions and was held in such regard that a number of players attended his 18th birthday party. He was also a keen Liverpool FC supporter.

“Supported by his mum and dad and two sisters Paul travelled the world and lived life to the full, achieving more in his 23 years than many achieve in a lifetime.”

Paul loved his family and friends above all else: “His regular date with his box of Pringles, tin of Diet Coke and ‘Match of the Day’ was shared with all who loved him.

“Living with Aperts Syndrome did not deter him in any aspect of his life, he rubbed shoulders with the famous and chatted to everyone he met, an exceptional young man who touched and inspired the lives of anyone who had the privilege of knowing him.”

Glenavon Football Club released a statement on social media, saying the club was “deeply saddened” to hear of his passing. 

“Paul and his family were devoted Glenavon fans, who followed the team home, away and overseas for many years,” it said. “The club extends its sincerest condolences to the extended Russell family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you through this difficult time.”

Fans also weighed in with their tributes, assuring the family of their prayers. One of them, Neil Adair, said it was “very sad news”, describing Paul as “a diehard, a seasoned traveller and a familiar face on a match day”.

:: The funeral from his home on Thursday 30 June at 1.15pm for Service in Dromore Cathedral at 2pm followed by committal in the adjoining churchyard.