Poignant tributes have been paid to former RAF serviceman, Paul Crawford.
The Newtownabbey man passed away at the NI Hospice on October 16 after an 11-month battle with cancer.
Paul was the dearly-beloved husband of Amanda and much loved daddy to Joey and a treasured son and brother to the family.
In late 2018, Mr Crawford was diagnosed with cancer and courageously battled it for almost a year.
In 2015, after serving 12 years in the RAF, he came home to marry his lifelong partner and settle. He was accepted into the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) as a paramedic. He also worked for Pro-paramedics and Capita.
On June 21 2018 following his training, Paul passed out with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and his first post was Westland followed by Whitla. He sadly received his diagnosis later that year.
Paying tribute, Michael Graham, Chief Fire and Rescue Officer (Interim), said: “It was with deep regret that we heard of the passing of our colleague firefighter Paul Crawford, who sadly passed away following a period of illness.
“Paul will be sorely missed by all of his colleagues, especially those on White Watch Whitla and Green Watch Westland with whom he served as a firefighter. Our thoughts and sincere sympathies are with Paul’s wife, young son and his wider circle of family and friends.”
Passing condolences to Paul’s family, on social media, a spokesperson for Whitehead Eagles FC said: “We are saddened to hear the news that our friend and former member Paul Crawford has passed away.
“Paul was a gentleman and loved pulling on an Eagles shirt. Our thoughts go out to Amanda and family also to Wayne and the rest of the family circle.”
Paul’s family wish to thank NI Hospice for their exemplary care during Paul’s last six weeks, adding that it was “second to none.”
In a touching tribute, Paul’s wife Amanda and son Joey said: “In life, we loved you beyond words, in death we love you still. In our hearts you hold a forever place, no one else will ever fill. We will love you to eternity xox.”
A service of thanksgiving for Paul’s life was held in Carnmoney Presbyterian Church on October 19 with committal afterwards in Carnmoney Cemetery Main.
Paul’s elder brother Wayne also served in the RAF, sharing seven of his 13 years at camps with Paul.
Addressing the congregation at Saturday’s funeral, Wayne said: “Paul was my shadow, my best friend. He always had my back and now he will forever be my guardian angel. You can be sure of that!
“Paul leaves behind his wife Amanda. His rock. She did not leave his side throughout his illness and was his protector during his darkest of times.
“It was love at first sight. Through the highs and lows, through thick and thin, they made it through 21 years together.
“Amanda, you’ve been an inspiration throughout this last year and we are glad that Paul had you by his side. Just like Paul, we are so proud of you and we love you.
“Paul was part of a large family. He was darling son to Kathleen and David, cherished brother to myself and my sisters Susan, Katreana and Gemma and a much loved uncle to Chloe and Hannah. But Paul also leaves behind an even wider family of friends.
“Some of these friends have been with him since childhood and some he has picked up on his many adventures. With these friends Paul has the most unbreakable of bonds. He would say to them, ‘this is not goodbye, this is merely see you later.”
Speaking at Paul’s funeral, Warrant Officer Dave James said: “We have listened to each other’s worries and woes over the years and you have been so supportive of me and I will never forget the support you have given me. I don’t know if you ever knew that, but I love you very much for that.
“Your career achievements have been spectacular. You reached the rank of Sergeant in quick time, you trained and qualified as a Paramedic and gained your degree.
“There are undoubtedly military and ex-military people alive today that would not be around if it were not for your medical interventions and care.
“You have deployed on numerous occasions to the most hostile environments putting yourself in harm’s way in Afghanistan, all to help others. Your bravery, selfless commitment and total compassion saw you receive a totally justified commendation recognising your skills and valued service. You are an inspirational man.”