The former Ulster Defence Regiment Company Sergeant Major had campaigned for many years for the erection of the memorial in the village to the fallen of two World Wars and a memorial tablet bearing the names of security forces from the parish and surrounding district murdered during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
In the village in which Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, the Second World War General, had resided, Tommy long believed a War Memorial should stand. He formed the Loughgall War Memorial Committee in the early 1990s and, following considerable fund-raising efforts, the Memorial was eventually erected in 1999.
Annually since that time, Tommy had faithfully organised the Remembrance Sunday wreath laying at the village Memorial – a duty which this year, in his absence, fell to sons Mervyn and Bryan, both of whom had followed in their father’s footsteps in the military.
Just two weeks previous they, along with family and friends at their father’s funeral had watched on as UDR colleagues paid personal tributes in a Poppy Drop at his graveside.
Thomas William (Tommy) Walker died in in Craigavon Area Hospital on November 1. He was 83.
Born at Drumilly, Loughgall the youngest of three sons, he was educated at Cope Primary School.
It was at a very young age Tommy developed a love for all things military, of history and in particular the world wars and various conflicts, almost certainly the seeds of which were sown during his time spent with American soldiers who were stationed at their Drumilly training camp pre the D-Day Landings. He would have been on first name terms with many of the GI’s, enjoying drives in their jeeps and sharing meals with them in their canteen.
During the later years of his schooldays, Tommy began his working career at Norman Gilpin’s farm close to the village, initially in a part-time capacity but eventually becoming a full-time worker. Some years later he joined the Ministry for Agriculture whose headquarters were in Loughgall and where he was to become foreman in their Horticulture Division.
1956 marked the beginning of his service to the crown. At the age of 18 he joined the Ulster Special Constabulary (B Specials) and in 1970 transferred to the Ulster Defence Regiment when there was great unrest in the province. Such was Tommy’s dedication and commitment to that role that it was not surprising he was to quickly rise through the ranks to the position of Company Sergeant Major.
In 1977 he joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) Full-time Reserve and was stationed at Gough Barracks in Armagh.
In between those years of service however, Tommy was to marry Hazel in 1964 and set up their family home in Loughgall where they welcomed two sons, Mervyn and Bryan.
His family was his life and in later years he loved nothing better than spending time with his sons and their family, Mervyn’s wife Mary and Bryan’s wife Linda plus their grandchildren Rebecca, Thomas, Stuart, Craig and Jack as well as great-grandson Freddie.
Tommy is survived also by brothers Jimmy (Loughgall) and John (Dromara).
He was a life-long member of St Luke’s Parish Church, Loughgall, Kinnego Loyal Orange Lodge No. 5 and a faithful member of the Royal Black Preceptory 352 at Causnagh.
Despite his long life, Tommy had suffered numerous health issues, including a heart-attack at the age of 42, a stroke and another minor heart-attack. However, a quadruple heart by-pass in 1984 allowed him to enjoy many more years of good health.
Sadly, as the years slipped by, Tommy’s health progressively deteriorated and quite suddenly and without warning, those health issues saw him admitted to Craigavon Hospital on October 31. Sadly, he died on November 1, surrounded by close family.
The largely attended funeral to St Luke’s Parish Church, Loughgall, was led by Rev Pete Smith with scripture readings by Dean Robert Townley and Alan McCartney.
As the cortege made the short journey to the village cemetery, passed the War Memorial, it was met by a lone Royal Irish Regiment Piper who led mourners to the graveside for the burial.
The War Memorial in Loughgall today stands as a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives in the service of others but it will now always stand as a fitting epitaph to Tommy Walker.