'Our Dad passed away peacefully in his sleep and a happy man'
GERRY Collins, who was the face of a national anti- smoking campaign, has died. Mr Collins (57), from Greystones, originally took part in a HSE anti smoking campaign in 2011 after overcoming throat cancer three years earlier.
However, in June last year, Gerry was diagnosed with the disease for a second time, with doctors informing him he had terminal lung cancer and had less than a year to live.
After initially struggling with the news, Gerry eventually came to terms with the situation and got in contact with the HSE. He then agreed to became the face of a new campaign to highlight the dangers of smoking.
The campaign, which included a number of ads depicting Gerry at family gatherings in his home as well as training at his local GAA club, was launched last December and he appeared on RTE's Saturday Night Show last January to urge people to quit smoking.
Mr Collins is survived by his wife Delly and children Lisa, Ciara and Stephen.
His eldest daughter Lisa paid tribute to her father on Facebook saying: "Our Dad, Gerry Collins, passed away this morning peacefully in his sleep and a 'happy man'."
She said that the family were lucky enough to be there with him to hold his hand and say goodbye adding: "We love you dearly xxxx."
At the launch of his campaign last year, Gerry said the ads were an opportunity to show the dangers of smoking and that he took solace from the fact he would be able to say goodbye to his family unlike those who die suddenly.
"I hope to continue in the fight against smoking," he said in December. For me, it's a nice legacy to leave behind.
"People who are killed in a car crash never get to say goodbye. I've an opportunity to say goodbye. As sad and all as it is for the family, they're very lucky.
"If I can get through the day with a bit of peace and contentment every day, that's good enough for me. If I can spend time with the kids, I'm happy with that."
Speaking following news of Gerry's passing, parish priest in Greystones Fr Liam Belton praised the advocate for his work in highlighting the dangers of smoking.
"The man has suffered but he certainly has been instrumental in bringing the dangers of smoking to the public's attention," he said. "The campaign certainly caught the attention of the people.
"I didn't know him personally but we extend our great sympathy to all his family."
He said Gerry's abilities to communicate the effects of smoking were an important contribution in getting people to quit.
"It's very sad because I understand there was going to be a big anti smoking launch on Ash Wednesday. Traditionally people in the Catholic Church give up something for Lent and cigarettes and drink used to be a great thing to give up.
"Certainly the ads were very good. I also saw him on a chat show programme on television. He was a very good communicator and has made a very important contribution in highlighting the seriousness of smoking."