AN ANTRIM family have paid tribute to their beloved daughter, who died suddenly last month.
Paula and Dermod Ryder said that their recently deceased daughter Katie (25) was ‘loved by all who knew her, in Antrim town and beyond’.
Mr Ryder was a well-known figure in the media, frequently campaigning for his daughter’s rights and calling for improvements in the care of vulnerable young people.
Katie lived with autism and epilepsy and took a seizure on January 31.
Mrs Ryder said: “We felt moved to speak publicly about how lovely she was.
“She was well known in Antrim, attending Riverside School and Antrim Adult Centre and a local Nursing Home for respite and receiving much care from Social Services staff.
“Katie touched the lives of and was loved by many so many people in the two areas.
“She was innocent and pure of spirit – our ‘Brilliant Star’.
“She was kind-natured, gentle, stubborn, deeply affectionate, supremely funny, unknowingly courageous and happy in herself.
“Her dark hair had golden glints; her winning smile and infectious laugh displayed her prominent teeth and her giggles made tears of joy flood cheeks.
“Spectacles-free favourite people had their eyelashes gently touched to get a ‘butterfly’.
“Katie was a life-long stealer of bread; the sensory Queen of softly-flicked catalogue pages across her nose; the avant-garde musician on her full-size keyboard.
“The Loch Tay Boat Song and ‘Macushla’ were sung to/with her almost every day of her life.
“She loved the Teletubbies, Tweenies, Thomas the Tank Engine and Mr Tumble.
“She saw something special in the eyes of her dollies (Brigie, Ali-Doll and Lulu) and had a deep love for her most recently acquired BFF - Upsy Daisy - (all six of them).
“Nursery rhymes were shared daily with her wonderful one-to-one carer, as were affectionate eye-balling sessions.
“She particularly loved special walks with her loving big sister and frequently over-enthusiastic Labrador, these made worry-free with her innovative, break-fall ‘magic’ harness.”
The couple continued: “We, her parents, feel privileged to have had Katie in our lives.
“A running joke is that ‘daddy did all the work and mammy got all the cuddles’!
“Katie was her daddy’s life – his single-minded sense of duty, dedication and commitment to his ‘wee bird’ were absolute.
“He planned for her, fought for her, provided for her – from medication and laundry services to walking Katie round the houses and building a stockpile of spare ‘Upsies’.
“Mammy will always be content with the giggles and cuddles.
“Katie is missed dreadfully but shall always be with us.
“We are grateful to all those, past and present, who cared for her and loved her.
“We thank God for her life with us here and we cherish our precious memories.
“She has returned home.”
A spokesperson for Riverside School said: “We have been shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of one of our past pupils this week.
“Katie was a popular and much-loved member of our school community.
“The staff and pupils in Riverside have many happy memories of Katie singing to her dolly Lulu, her infectious laugh and beautiful smile.
“She will always remain in the hearts of her Riverside family.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Dermod, Paula and the rest of the family circle.”
And a spokesperson for Antrim Adult Centre added: “It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our very special friend Katie.
“We send our heartfelt sympathies to Dermod, Paula, Caroline, Emmy and all Katie's family and friends.
“Katie will be sadly missed by everyone at Antrim Adult Centre”