Mr Kirkwood, a former teacher at Central Primary School and later Lisburn Technical College, served as an Ulster Unionist Party councillor from 1973 - 1977 and a Unionist Party of Northern Ireland alderman from 1977 - 1981.
He went on to work as a librarian at the Ulster Polytechnic in Jordanstown and later at Queen’s University in Belfast. He retired in 1998 at the age of 65, following which he became a voluntary worker at Lisburn Citizens Advice Bureau for many years.
Mr Kirkwood served as chairman of the South Eastern Education and Library Board from 1979 - 1981, as chair of the Youth Committee for Northern Ireland from 1981 - 1986 and was a member of the Prince’s Trust NI Committee from 1985 - 2000. He was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1987.
The father-of-three was well known for his cross-community work in the 1970s and ‘80s and made many great friends across the community divide. He was a long-time member of First Lisburn Presbyterian Church and was a valued member of the church choir for many years.
Mr Kirkwood, whose beloved wife Isobel passed away a couple of years ago, is survived by his three children - Kathy, Jim and Michael.
Paying tribute to their father, they described him as “a great family man”.
“Everybody who knew him loved him,” they said. “He was able to enhance people’s happiness. We are just very proud of him.
“He was a great family man, a great church man. He loved socialising with family and friends. He was a man of great humility who will be sadly missed in many different parts of the community.”
Alderman Jim Dillon, who served on the council alongside Mr Kirkwood in the late 1970s, described him as “a first class guy”.
“I knew Cecil very well,” he said. “He was a most upstanding man and a man of high principles who knew what he was doing. He was a man who when he spoke people listened because he always made sense, unlike many of the politicians these days.”
Mr Kirkwood was actively involved in rugby, cricket and hockey in the Lisburn area for many years and was a former chairman and president of Lisburn Cricket Club.
Expressing sadness at his passing, a post on the club’s Facebook page said: “Cecil was a past chairman and president of the club, as well as a life member and club patron.
“He was extremely well known and loved in both local cricket and hockey circles and will be sadly missed.
“To Kathy, Jimmy, Michael and the Kirkwood family circle we extend the club’s heartfelt condolences at this sad time.”
Expressing their “deepest condolences” to his family, a post on the Lisburn Rugby Club Facebook page paid tribute to Mr Kirkwood.
“A true gentleman who will be missed by all who knew him and we were very fortunate to have had him as a member and a friend,” the message said.
A post on the Lisnagarvey Hockey Club Facebook page said the club was “saddened to learn of the passing of Cecil Kirkwood” and extended its “condolences to Kathy, Jimmy, Michael and the wider Kirkwood family circle at this sad and difficult time.”
A service of thanksgiving for Mr Kirkwood’s life is due to be held in First Lisburn Presbyterian Church on Friday, April 6 at 2.30pm.
The service will be preceded by a private family burial.