A FORMER principal of Lisburn College has paid tribute to a popular local man who has died suddenly.
Gareth Dickson, 28, who grew up locally and was a salon manager at the Toni & Guy outlet on the Lisburn Road, is believed to have passed away in his sleep last week.
Mr. Dickson did business studies at Lisburn College and Principal at that time Alister McReynolds, said he stood out.
"In 14 years as Principal there were literally thousands of students but Gareth stood out for his intelligence, wit and friendly personality. He did business studies at the College and went to the University of Ulster where he got a good degree and started working in the bank. But he found this was too staid for him and wanted to work in a creative way. I thought he was a fine young man."
Mr. Dickson was widely known in social circles and had recently participated in the BBC documentary, Going the Distance, which focused on ordinary people training for the Belfast marathon.
Hundreds of tributes have been posted on social networking website, Facebook, in memory of the salon manager, affectionately known as 'Gurty' to friends.
One user wrote: "Such sad, sad news, you were such a genuine lovely man, a real inspiration. I am so going to miss our chats and banter, you could always light up my day."
Another said: "RIP Gareth. It's hard to find words to express. Memories will live in the hearts of every life you touched. You will be missed by so many."
A poem as part of a death notice in a Belfast newspaper read: "A smile for all, a heart of gold, one of the best this world could hold, never selfish, always kind, these are the memories you leave behind."
Mr Dickson's funeral service was held at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, last Friday morning.
A close friend described him as "a fabulous larger-than-life personality, a friend to hundreds and an inspiration to all who knew him".