Popular Waterside woman dies

THERE has been widespread shock and sorrow in Londonderry following the death of Mrs Betty Sheppard, late of Ulsterville Avenue in the Waterside. She was 75.

Wife of former Governor of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, Mr Sammy Sheppard, Betty was laid to rest in Altnagelvin Graveyard on Sunday following a poignant and widely attended funeral service at First Derry Presbyterian Church, meeting at Carlisle Road Methodist Church.

The funeral service was presided over by Rev Dr David Latimer, who painted a picture of Mrs Sheppard who was blessed with a happy marriage and contented family life, and as a woman devoted to her husband, sons, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Mr and Mrs Sheppard married in 1960 and their marriage was blessed with two sons, Ralph and Mark.

Dr Latimer described how pictures in the family home at Ulsterville Avenue showed that the Sheppard household was a place of “undiluted happiness”, with Betty firmly at the heart of the family.

“She was a good wife and popular mother with her sons and daughter-in-law Julia, and later her three grandsons,” he said.

He said that Mrs Sheppard had suffered a serious illness, and had experienced bouts in hospital, but in the past had overcome her illness.

“She always bounced back, but sadly, this time it was not to be,” said Dr Latimer, adding: “It was comforting as their Minister to be able to assure the family that Betty was a woman of faith and indeed, Betty’s regular attendance at church was exemplary in her finding time for God. It exemplified for me that death was not the end for Betty, and that she was moving through the door of death into the presence of Jesus Christ, whom she followed.”

He said further evidence of how tight-knit the family was, was evidenced through the attendance at the funeral of a number of Betty’s relations who travelled to the city from England, including her sisters Adele and Ann, and two of her nieces.

“It was comforting to see everybody converge on the city on Sunday to identify with Sammy and the family, and money in lieu of flowers was donated to Cancer Research. After the Committal Service at Altnagelvin Cemetery everyone was invited to the RBL at Iona Terrace for refreshments,” he said.

During the service two of the late Mrs Sheppard’s favourite hymns were sung: Psalm 23 and ‘O Love that will not let me go’, and in addition to Old and New Testament readings, Paraphrase 42 was read.

The current Governor of the Apprentice Boys, Jim Brownlee, said Mrs Sheppard’s passing had caused great distress to all who knew the Sheppard family. He said Mrs Sheppard had been in hospital prior to her death.

“I visited the family on Saturday night and attended the funeral and the attendance at the funeral reflected the esteem in which Betty was held. I know Sam is quite distressed. It is something we all have to bear, but Sammy can be assured of our support in the weeks and months ahead.

“On behalf of the organisation I expend my sympathy to Sammy and the wider family circle,” he said.

General Secretary of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, Billy Moore, also extended sympathy to the Sheppard family.

“On behalf of the officers and members of the General Committee I would like to extend my sympathy to Sam and his family.

Speaker of the Assembly, William Hay, said he was shocked to hear of Mrs Sheppard’s death.

“I have known the family for some time and called at their home on Saturday night. I was devastated when I heard the news of Betty’s death. I knew Betty wasn’t well, and that she had been in and out of hospital in recent months. She was a pillar in the community and both she and her husband were held in high esteem thorughout the entire city. Theirs is a very well-known family and Betty’s death was a shock to the whole community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sammy at this sad time,” Mr Hay said.

Mrs Shepherd is survived by her husband Sammy, sons, Mark and Ralph, daughter-in-law Julie, her three grandsons Dominic, Alexander and William, and wider family circle.