A Derrygonnelly man died hours before he was set to receive a major award for his contribution to Sailability, his grieving wife has said. 

Martin Ansfield, who battled pulmonary fibrosis for several years, passed away peacefully in his hotel room before an award ceremony in Belfast on Friday last. 

He was set to receive an award for his volunteering efforts for Sailability on Lough Erne, including a 24-hour sail last year, where he raised over £8,000 for Sailability and Pulmonary Fibrosis NI.

Knowing just how important the award was to her late husband, his beloved wife Jennifer lifted it on his behalf, and a five-minute standing ovation followed.

As per his wishes, the award will be donated to Lough Erne Yacht Club. 

He was laid to rest at Inishmacsaint Parish Church on Tuesday, where scores of mourners turned out to pay their final respects.

Mrs. Ansfield explained that while her late husband had battled Pulmonary Fibrosis since 2017, he "never let it hold him back".

"He was very positive and outgoing, and would have helped anyone in need," she said. "He never talked about his illness. He never let it hold him back.

"He had hope right up to the end."

Having retired from the Armed Forces in 2011, Mr. Ansfield's later years were characterised by a passion for sailing.  This was thanks in no small part to the Sailability programme at Lough Erne. 

"He loved sailing, and Sailability made it possible for him despite his illness," Mrs. Ansfield explained. "He kept going right until the end, and even as recently as a few weeks ago, he was taking part in powerboat courses. 

"Recently, he was accompanied on a sail by his good friend, Dr. Tom Allen. He took unwell on that occasion, but thankfully Dr. Allen was there to help him. 

"He thought the world of his personal friend Dr. Allen, and he really looked after him that day."

Equally, Mrs. Ansfield paid tribute to all healthcare staff who looked after her late husband, especially within the past year. 

"In the last six months he has been in and out of hospital, and they (the healthcare staff) really treated him like royalty," she said. 

Mrs. Ansfield added that while her husband's passing on Friday past was unexpected, he had "been suffering for a long time".

She said: "He was due to receive an award for volunteering, and on the road up to Belfast it was all he would talk about - that, and the fact that Sailability was starting again in a fortnight!

"He passed away in the hotel room peacefully. I knew how big the award was for him, so I felt it was only right to collect it on his behalf. I wasn't dressed up or anything; it was a last-minute decision. 

"I informed the crowd of what had happened. Everyone was shocked. We heard a talk about Marty's contributions and fundraising. The standing ovation must have lasted around five minutes.

"He would have been honoured to get that award. It was very special to him."

Mr. Ansfield was a devoted father to Steven (Lisa) and Alan (Jodie); a much-loved grandfather to Aaron, Katie, Jaxson, Jake and Olly and a dear brother to Angela and Desmond.