A Larne minister has spoken of the “many outstanding things” achieved by the late Jack McKee, who passed away on Sunday following a short illness.
A service of thanksgiving for Mr McKee’s life was held yesterday (Wednesday) in Larne Free Presbyterian Church, where Rev David Brown paid tribute to “a man who knew God, who was saved”.
In his eulogy for Mr McKee, Rev Brown described the former councillor as a “bit of a character in his early days”.
He added: “Jack often recollected events of his younger days with me. As a young man he was a stowaway on a boat to Liverpool, and lived in a national assistance hostel for a brief time.
“On one occasion when the police lifted him, they put him into the back seat of the car and he opened the door at the other side and ran out!”
Rev Brown also recalled an occasion when Mr McKee saved his brother’s life.
“Jack and his brother were going down to the harbour and his brother fell down in between the quay and the boat, knocking himself out in the process. Jack jumped down in caught the hold of his brother and held on till more help arrived,” he added.
Rev Brown went on to describe how Mr McKee came to know the grace of God, stating: “Jack’s early days where filled with heroics and mischief, but many of the events of those days Jack was ashamed of and regretted; the drinking, violence, sin. He stood in this pulpit three years ago as a man in his late sixties and said it would have had been better if he got saved in his youth.
“Something happened to Jack 1965, about age 22. He learnt about how God could forgive a man from all his sin and change him.
“It all began when he met his future wife Joan, who was training at Stranmillis College to be a teacher. They entered a relationship and Joan took Jack to a Gospel Mission.
“That night Jack looked to Jesus Christ, trusted Him for salvation and God did cleanse Jack and gave him a new heart.
“That didn’t make him a perfect man, but he was a different man and from then until the day he died he grew in grace and in Christ likeness.”
Rev Brown recounted the “many outstanding things” Jack achieved in his life, having sat on Larne Borough Council for 42 years from 1973, and spend most of those years with the DUP before defecting to the TUV in 2007.
Mr McKee served as Mayor of Larne in 1984-85, and earlier this year he received the Freedom of the Borough in recognition of his long service.
Rev Brown added: “At his own expense, Jack set up an advice centre which served all the community; he would often have been found after doing night shift accompanying people of the area to meetings, appeals and tribunals.”
He also recalled the first time he met Mr McKee, stating: “My first encounter with Jack was in the prayer room, before a church service in 2011 where he prayed for God to bless the preaching of the Word, to help the preacher, and he was still praying in that room up until a couple of weeks ago- and I’ll miss that
“There where times I thought he was about to collapse hardly being able to speak he prayed with passion.
“Jack was instrumental in the formation of this church, it was born out of a protest against ecumenism, and God blessed and souls where saved. So from its inception Jack was involved in this work and has passed into eternity still involved as a respected committee man here.”
Paying tribute to Mr McKee on a personal level, Rev Brown concluded.: “What Jack was in public he was at home; down to Earth, made plenty of time for his family, loved his wife, children and grandkids- he did what he could for everyone.”
Following the funeral, Mr McKee was laid to rest in Larne Cemetery. He is survived by his wife Joan, children Calvin and Leah and his five grandchildren.