Matt an expert mechanic, football fan and devoted family man

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Matthew (Matt) Cheevers put his heart and soul into every aspect of his busy life – especially his extended family, his long career in the motor trade, his love for football and his fascination for motorbike racing.

Matt (79) passed away peacefully in Craigavon Area Hospital after a short illness, with his family at his bedside. He is survived by wife Beryl, daughter Lynda and son Glenn, son-in-law Richard and grandchildren Clarissa, Marcus, Matthew and Emma.

He came originally from Cookstown, the son of the late Alan and Isobel Cheevers. He was one of a family of six – three girls and three boys. Nan, Billy and Ethne survive him and he was predeceased by Helen and Alan.

Matt left primary school in Cookstown at the age of 14, with the ambition of working at cars. He fulfilled this ambition immediately when he joined the local firm of Bradford’s, serving his time as a mechanic.

He began with the Cookstown firm of Bradford’s and took to the mechanic trade like the proverbial duck to water. A quiet, caring person, he endeared himself to the motoring public of the Tyrone town and was popular with his colleagues.

He had a great interest in Portadown from his young days, being a supporter of Portadown Football Club for as long as he could remember – the Ports were the closest senior Irish League club to Cookstown in those days.

His interest in Portadown intensified in 1959 when he met the then Beryl McCann in 1959 - they were both on a day trip to Portrush. Romance blossomed and on July 3, 1964, they were married in St Mark’s Church of Ireland by the Rector, Rev Tom McGonigle.

They settled in Clounagh Park, and later Derryclone Gardens, both within a short walk of his ‘other home’ Shamrock Park! In the meantime, he continued as an expert mechanic – with Automart at Bridge Street, Allen’s Autos at Garvaghy Road, and finally at Allen’s Honda at Armagh Road.

At the latter end of his working life (he retired in 2011 at the age of 73) he joined the Allen’s Auto sales team. His knowledge of cars and his quiet, honest authoritative manner were a great boon for the company. He had become something of a legend in the car trade and customers came from far and wide to deal with him.

He was also respected by his workmates and the successive proprietors of the companies – George Allen and John Ford.

Sport played a major role in Matt’s life – mainly football and motorbike racing. He was a committed Portadown FC fan, especially during the Gibby Mackenzie and Ronnie McFall eras – he counted the two men among his personal friends.

He was delighted during the McFall era when the trophies poured into Shamrock Park, especially the first Irish Cup and League titles in the early 1990s. Said Ronnie, “Matt was not only a loyal fan through thick and thin, but a great friend of my wife Anne and myself.

“He was truly devoted fan. I visited him in hospital during his last illness, and we enjoyed reminiscing over great times – he even talked about my playing days with Portadown. He was a good and trustworthy man.” Matt was also a Spurs fan from the Danny Blanchflower era.

His other all-consuming sport was motorbike racing. He and son Glenn were regulars at the North West 200, the Ulster Grand Prix and the Isle of Man TT, which they attended every year, including the 2016 races. His favourite race meeting, though, was the Ulster Grand Prix and his favourite rider was the legendary Joey Dunlop, who died in a crash in Estonia in 2000 – which deeply saddened Matt and thousands of others.

He was also keen on pipe bands, being bass drummer in the Colonel Saunderson Pipe Band, Portadown, and Cullybackey Pipe Band in County Antrim, where he drove every Monday and Wednesday nights for practice.

His greatest love, though, was his wife and family. He was a contented, happy man, his greatest pride and joy being all three generations. He is sadly missed by them all.

The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Matthew James Cheevers was at St Mark’s Church of Ireland where it was conducted by the Curate Rev Keith Marshall. The hymns were ‘The Day Thou Gavest’, ‘The King of Love’ and ‘Shall We Gather by the River’. The Bible Reading was by Chris Thomson.

The family wishes to thank the Rector of St Mark’s, Rev Willian Orr, and his staff for their help and compassion during his illness, and the staff of 2 North Respiratory Ward at Craigavon Hospital for their wonderful care and expertise.

Burial was at Kernan Cemetery. Donations (if desired) are to 2 North Respiratory Ward, Craigavon Area Hospital, c/o Joseph Poots Funeral Directors, 42 Bridge Street, Portadown BT53 5AE.