ANTI-SMOKING campaigner Gerry Collins wanted to be remembered as someone who "gave it my best and never gave up trying", the congregation at his funeral Mass were told yesterday.
The 57-year-old became the face of the HSE anti-smoking campaign before his death this week.
Hundreds paid their respects at the Holy Rosary Church in Greystones, Co Wicklow, and there was laughter among the tears.
Gerry's close friend John Kelly said he had asked him to deliver his eulogy.
"In fact, he told me what to say and he told me not to make a bags of it. He joked about how he would love to be here," he said.
Another friend, Fr John McDonagh, who concelebrated the Mass, confirmed that Gerry "never gave up fighting the good fight and trying his best. He was always trying to rise above what difficulties life presented".
The businessman beat throat cancer in 2008 but succumbed to lung cancer on Sunday morning surrounded by his family.
He had recorded a new series of anti-smoking ads, the first of which went ahead on TV last night at his family's request.
His daughter, Lisa, said her father "gave 100pc to everything he put his hand to".
"We all knew this day would come, but there is no way you can prepare for such a big loss," she added.
She said her father saw the HSE Quit campaign as a chance to stop people smoking and "as an opportunity to bring his family closer together at a very difficult time. We couldn't be any prouder of him".
His other daughter, Ciara, described the Quit campaign as "an unbelievable legacy which dad left behind him".
As Fr McDonagh and local priest Fr Denis Quinn greeted the coffin's arrival at the church, Gerry's extended family placed a host of symbols beside it, including a history book, a Kilmacud Crokes football jersey, boxing gloves and a guitar. Gerry was known as a music-lover and used to play with his local band, the Upbeats.
He is survived by his wife Delly, two daughters and son Stephen, mother Phyllis, sister Rosemary, brothers Declan and Paddy, daughter-in-law Karina and grandson Noah.
SEE MICHAEL O'DOHERTY: PAGE 29