Respected businessman and lay reader lived life to the full

Rodney Walker.
Rodney Walker.

Respected businessman and past Lay Reader in St Mark’s church, Rodney Walker, passed away peacefully in Craigavon Hospital on Monday, January 7, at the age of 93.

Rodney lived a full life and was still living independently in his home at Harcourts Hill, Ballyworkan, Portadown.

He was born Rodney Isaac Pedlow on 18th July 1925 and was one of three children.

He was brought up in Hanover Street, Portadown, and at the age of 13 he unfortunately lost his mother. He and his other two siblings were brought up by their father, Moses, who ran a business as an egg exporter in Clonavon Avenue.

Rodney was educated in Portadown College and later started his own business as a poultry farmer after meeting his late wife Freda Abraham whom he affectionately called Winifred.

They met in Portrush in 1947 and were married in 1952. They began married life at Drumnagoon, Portadown, where they had two sons, Keith and Paul before building a home at Harcourts Hill where they had a further two daughters Amanda and Sylvia.

Rodney developed his business realising there was a growing market for affordable brown eggs in Ireland, which were generally much more expensive than white eggs.

He was the first person to introduce black chickens into Northern Ireland which were hybrid layers known as Arbor Acres, producing high quality brown eggs.

He imported the chickens from a Dundalk Hatchery, rearing them to point of lay and then distributing them across Ireland.

These journeys took his wife and four children to many remote areas of Ireland often returning home in the small hours of the morning. These trips are fondly remembered as great adventures by his four children, where they met many interesting characters, dining in cafes and restaurants or picnicking along the way.

Rodney’s business interests developed over the years through good times and bad where at one stage he owned 60,000 laying hens across three farms. During the 70s the egg market collapsed due to cheap French imports and, together with other farmers, the Government paid Rodney six pence per dozen to dump tens of thousands of eggs because there was no market for them.

After the death of his father, Rodney took over the egg exporting business and continued for many years selling eggs until his late 70s. Despite his very busy life style Rodney had a great passion for helping and supporting others and played a huge role in the life of his church.

He was a Sunday School Superintendent in Seagoe Parish Church during the 1950s and a cub leader in Mullavilly Parish when he moved to Ballyworkan in the 1960s and 70s.

During the 80s he joined the Samaritans where he volunteered for over 20 years. Often he would come home late at night from feeding chickens, grab a sleeping bag and head out to spend the night at the Samaritans in Thomas Street.

In 1993 after 12 months of training he was commissioned as a Lay Reader in St Mark’s Parish church where he continued for 20 years. He only retired from this role at the age of 79 because he didn’t feel physically fit enough to continue in this busy schedule, otherwise he would have kept going. It was difficult for him to retire from this role as he loved it so much but was delighted to receive a beautiful wall clock from the vestry in gratitude for his service.

Rodney lived life to the full and was totally devoted to his late wife Winifred, his four children, 11 grandchildren and 13 Great grandchildren. He is survived by his brother Derek who lives in London and his sister Gwenda who lives in Portadown.

The funeral Service was conducted by the Curate of St Marks Parish Church, Lucy Burden, and he is interred at Milltown Parish Churchyard, Birches.

His son Paul said the family are very touched by the many tributes to Rodney and wants everyone to know that they are extremely grateful for all the messages of sympathy. They also want to thank the staff at Craigavon Hospital for the exceptional care they provided in his final days and the many years of service provided by Anne’s Home care who treated him like a member of their own family.

They also pay tribute to the clergy of St Mark’s church, William and Lucy, who provided huge support to the entire family circle during the recent difficult days.