As the hearse carrying Lisbellaw United FC stalwart, Kenny Forde, made its way through Lisbellaw last Sunday, the street was lined as members and players, past and present, clapped as they paid their final respects to a much loved character within the club.

And just as his coffin was about to be brought into Lisbellaw Church of Ireland, the rain which had been incessant that morning, stopped for a brief moment and a patch of blue sky broke through the clouds, the same colour worn by his beloved football club.

The 63-year-old was known far and wide for his association with the football club for over 52 years.

And while he devoted so much time to the club, Kenny was also a loving brother and uncle to Keith, his wife Sarah and their six children as well as a dedicated partner to Charmian.

Willingness to help

Speaking about his brother, Keith described him as “a quiet fella” but he could not have asked for a better brother.

“Anything you wanted done or anything you wanted help with he would help you no bother,” Keith said.

His willingness to help anybody who needed it and the impact he left on them he came into contact with was seen in the massive turnout for his funeral on Sunday both in Lisbellaw and at the house. And this outpouring of respect for Kenny was of much comfort to his family.

“It was a massive turnout. I knew he was very well known but they put on a good show for him. You saw that he was appreciated.

“He had a lot of friends through it. More friends even than he knew he had. There was an awful amount of people turned out. If it had been an ordinary time there would have been hundreds.”

After a career in banking, Kenny took early retirement, living and taking care of his mother until she passed away.

And that caring nature was also shown to Keith and his family, with Keith saying his children “thought the world of him”.

“He was another father figure for the children here. He would come and chat them when they were doing their homework or needed help with anything at all. If there were any questions it was no bother.

“He was a smart man and he thought the world of them and they thought the world of him.”

Never a problem

Keith says that if any of his children needed anything or brought anywhere whether it be Tempo or Belfast it was never a problem for Kenny to do so.

And it was the same with Lisbellaw United. If anything needed done, you could rely on Kenny.

Lisbellaw Chairman Ian Hood described the stunned feeling and complete shock that was felt following Kenny’s passing.

A lifelong member of the club, Kenny held various positions from manager to secretary, treasurer to groundsman.

He also washed every club kit and had a huge say in many of the players who would don the Lisbellaw jersey.

“Kenny’s ability in signing players both pre-season and during the season was legendary. Bear in mind that his time as club administrator covered an era before technology invaded the administration arena,” Ian said.

‘Never ceased to amaze’

“There were no emails, spreadsheets, word processing or mobile phones but Kenny, through sheer determination and consistent phone calls signed hundreds of players over the years.

“It never ceased to amaze me to see dozens of Fermanagh and Western teams arriving at our football ground and every team would have some official or player who would end up chatting to Kenny.

Search the hedgerows

“He literally was that well known in football circles.”

And it is safe to say that describing Kenny as a “stalwart” and “colossus” of Lisbellaw United is no exaggeration.

“Over the last number of years you would see Kenny at the club practically every day. Washing, drying kits, lining pitches, signing players, updating managers on new possible players. He also stayed behind after matches after all the players had gone to pub but Kenny would search the hedgerows and fields for lost footballs. And on Monday or Tuesday he would hand me two or three footballs he had retrieved,” recalls Ian.

Ian said that on the Monday before he died, Kenny had told him of his plans to record a complete history of Lisbellaw United from the scrap books he had collated all the way back from the early 70s.

The loss of Kenny which will be felt by his family and friends for a long time to come with his brother Keith describing how the whole family have been “heartbroken” by his death.

“The children are heartbroken, the wife is heartbroken. We are heartbroken. I have cried more this last few days than I have in my lifetime. He will be seriously missed.”

Kenny Forde, much loved partner of Charmian, and a very dear brother of Keith (Sarah) and a very special uncle of Rebecca, Lucy, Jessica, James, Thomas and Emily was laid to rest on Sunday, February 14.

Funeral arrangements by Marcus Madill Funeral Director.