“HE WAS the light of our world” is how the family of the late John Kingston has described the 72-year-old Enniskillen businessman, who passed away last week after a brave battle against ill health.

John was well-known in the Fermanagh community, where he was the owner of drapery shop ‘Kingston's', at No. 38, Darling Street, Enniskillen for almost 30 years before retiring due to ill health.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, John’s wife, Jackie, and his son, Ross, recounted the life of a family man who was also a great businessman and storyteller.

Kenneth John Kingston was born on June 23, 1948 in Borrisokane, Tipperary to Rev. George and Sadie Kingston.

The family travelled to Australia when John was five years old, as his father took up a ministry in West Australia.

Jackie said: “John loved the Aussie way of life.” John kept two Australian Holden cars at his home – a reminder of his time in Australia.

Ten years later, the family returned to Ireland and settled in Swanlinbar as Rev. Kingston continued his ministry.

John travelled to Enniskillen for work, beginning his working life in D. F. Clarke’s Fashion Store, and then in G. E. Wilson’s, where he learned the drapery trade before opening up his beloved Kingston’s at 20 years old.

Jackie described John as "a character; he was always telling jokes and stories”.

His son, Ross, described a storyteller: “He had favourite stories that he always told – the story of the footprints in the sand where God carries you when you struggle, and how he built his holiday home in St. John’s Point using bits from Stuart Auctions.”

John met Jackie through his sister, Ruth. The two married in the Summer of 1979, and moved to their home in Cappog, Enniskillen.

Previously, John had lived in a small flat above his shop, but at one point he had lived in the back of the shop while a young couple lodged in his flat.

John and Jackie had three children: George, Ross and Sarah. Jackie explained how the children all grew up in John’s shop.

“The children were never brought down to the Round O [park] to play; instead, they played in the shop, hiding in the railings, or running up to Brady’s shop for sweets.”

John’s pride and joy was his shop and his customers, said Jackie.

“John got to know everyone in the town, and enjoyed chatting to customers. He drank his coffee every hour, and got sticky buns from Elliott’s coffee shop.”

Ross said that he has strong memories of his father sitting on a stool at the very front of the shop, watching the world and occasionally smoking a cigarette.

Sadly, at the age of 48 on his way to visit his beloved Australia for a family wedding and to mark Australia Day, John suffered a major brain haemorrhage at Ballygawley roundabout in the middle of the night.

Jackie said: “Luckily, three young fellas found him on the side of the road where he’d pulled in after taking a turn, and they brought him to a house in Aughnacloy and rang an ambulance. He then spent nine months in hospital.”

John’s ill health caused major life changes for him. As a family, they made the decision to close the drapery shop in Darling Street, and looked after John in his home in Cappog.

Even in his ill health, John enjoyed getting out and about.

Jackie said: “He loved being on the road and going about the town for a spin, he liked to see who was out and about.

"We’d stop in McDonald’s to get him a black coffee with one sugar. We’d then sit in Stuart’s car park, and sometimes he’d stop people and talk to them.”

Jackie said: “I’ll miss his chat, his random craic, and his radio that he listened to all night on his headphones. He loved to listen to the World Service, so he could tell me the news first thing in the morning.”

John took ill at home on November 3 and sadly passed away. John’s family were grateful for the care he received, and said: “We would like to thank the paramedics and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, and the emergency team at the South West Acute Hospital who tried to bring him back.

"We have such a prime health service, and do not realise it.”

The church was an important part of John’s life. Before his ill health, he spent six years training as a lay reader for St. John’s, Church of Ireland, Florencecourt, and in his time he was a church warden, scout leader and a Sunday school teacher.

On November 8, John was laid to rest in the churchyard, just a few metres away from the spot where he often stood to talk to people coming out of church.

John is survived by his wife, Jackie; children, George (Jayne), Ross (Linda) and Sarah (Graham); his grandchildren, Daniel, Timothy, Anna, Sadie, Samuel, and Jack; by his brother, Trevor, and his sisters, Rosemary, Rosalind and Ruth.

The service was conducted by Rev. Ruth West, and Rev. Malcolm Kingston led the tribute to his uncle.

Funeral arrangements were carried out by Austin Stinson, W. T. Morrison Funeral Directors.