The key mover behind one of Ireland’s largest independent food companies continued to mentor protégés after a terminal cancer diagnosis – his confidence stemming from his Christian faith.
The tribute was paid to Norman Lynas OBE, chairman of Lynas Foodservice, who died on Saturday after a short illness, aged 77.
Lynas Foodservice, which is based in Coleraine in County Londonderry, employs more than 500 people.
He is survived by his wife Lynda, sons Peter, David and Andrew and their wives, seven grandchildren and sisters Maureen and Christine.
He suffered a suspected stroke on 15th August 2019. He spent a number of weeks in intensive care before beginning to make a recovery. However, in late September he was diagnosed with an advanced and inoperable brain tumour.
“Norman thoroughly enjoyed the extra time he was given passionately pursuing his love for Jesus as he had always done,” his family said in a statement.
“He had two key questions. If you don’t know Jesus, why not; and if you do know Jesus, what are you going to do about it?”
He was born on the 13th November 1942 to Bobby and Isobel Lynas. He survived polio as a child and didn’t pursue further education, instead entering the family business after his father’s heart attack.
His father had a small fishmongers shop in Coleraine where one of the bestselling items were Mrs Lynas’s famous fish cakes, which had a record sale of over 1,200 in one day.
Norman moved from the fish trade into frozen food after helping the Morelli family import some frozen fish pieces - and Lynas Frozen Food was born. The business is now in its third generation and is the largest independent frozen, chilled and ambient food service company in Ireland, the family said. It employs 550 staff and serves over 5000 customers. Norman remained chairman of the rebranded Lynas Foodservice until his death.
“His love of Jesus was central to everything he did,” his family said. “The Christian life is a journey, he would often say. He began that journey as a 13-year-old, but it was only following a trip to Capernwray aged 23 that he realised the full implications of being a follower of Jesus in business, in life and in everyday things.”
He established the Lynas Charitable Trust Fund in 1978 from income from the business and supported a wide variety of causes over the years. He and Lynda set up Exodus in 1997, which is a charity helping young people to become lifelong Christian disciple makers. Almost 10,000 young people have been through the programmes, travelling to some 35 countries.
Norman loved and supported Christian events such as Portstewart Convention, New Horizon, the New Irish choir and orchestra, Portstewart Baptist church, the Billy Graham organisation, the Belfast Community Gospel choir, Christian Guidelines, Stauros, Evangelical Alliance, and many others.
He also played a role in the work of Causeway Enterprise where he launched Venture Causeway, a dragons den style initiative. To date 29 businesses have been given both financial and mentoring support.
In 2017, Norman was awarded an OBE for services to business, the community and charity.
“Though he had officially retired from business he continued to mentor many. When he received his terminal diagnosis he was undeterred, confident in Jesus and tirelessly encouraging others to join him on the journey.”
His son Peter, NI director of Evangelical Alliance, said: “Dad leaves a living legacy in the many lives he touched and the impact he had for Jesus and the kingdom.”
His brother Andrew, CEO of Lynas Foodservice added: “Dad was a man of vision, guts and tenacity who loved Jesus and loved business.”
• A thanksgiving service takes place at Portstewart Baptist church on Wednesday at 1pm.