A 64-year-old teacher who was murdered at the weekend was an unbelievably generous man who “spent his life trying to figure out how to help people”, his pastor has said.
Robert Flowerday, a former teacher at Antrim Grammar School, was discovered at his home in Mill Road, Crumlin, on Sunday night.
Mr Flowerday was last seen alive when he left Dundrod Presbyterian Church on Sunday at 12.45pm police said.
A 33-year-old suspect has been arrested for questioning.
Andrew Masters, lead pastor at Lagan Valley Vineyard Church, said Mr Flowerday had been a committed member of his church for the past three years.
“He was one of the kindest, gentlest people I have met,” he said. “When you hear that it can sound cliched, but in Robert’s case it was true – he was such a gentle soul.
“He spent his life trying to figure out how to help people.
“We just found out that anytime someone asked him to pray about something he would always write it down in this book at home. And it stayed there until he felt it had been answered.”
Until last week Mr Masters felt that only a few people in his church community would have known him well.
“But over the past 24 hours my phone has been overwhelmed with people saying how he had helped them. He was unbelievably generous in his own quiet way, both with his time and his money.
“Often he would chop logs and then spend the evening delivering them to single parents and widows.
“He was not a man of words but rather a man of action and never sought any recognition.”
He was not married and had no children but had four brothers, one of whom predeceased him, and one sister.
Principal of Antrim Grammar School, Jenny Lendrum, said the entire school community is mourning the loss of Mr Flowerday, who taught there from 1978 to 2004.
“During that time he touched so many lives in his role as teacher, colleague and friend,” she said. “He was a talented mathematician and was dedicated to every pupil that he taught. He believed in them and always worked tirelessly to ensure that every pupil achieved their full potential. To that end he was successful.”
He left Antrim Grammar School in 2004 to work as a personal tutor in mathematics, physics and chemistry as well as preparing pupils for transfer tests.
“As a result, he continued to have a positive impact on the lives of many and ensured they enjoyed success.”
He loved Antrim Grammar School and kept in touch with staff, also tutoring pupils right up until last week.
“There has been an outpouring of emotion from current and past teachers and pupils within the school, through phone calls and through social media. A special assembly took place today in memory of him and all within the school community took time to acknowledge all that he had given to Antrim Grammar and the wider community throughout his teaching career.”
The school will continue to remember “the wonderful, genuine, gentle and caring man that was Mr Flowerday”.
Rev Leslie Addis from Woodlands Presbyterian Church in Carrickfergus, said he had known Mr Flowerday for 45 years, initially as a member of his youth club.
“He guided me in my first faltering steps as a disciple and was my chess partner and maths mentor.”
Six months ago he had spotted him on his bicycle in Crumlin. “I stopped to thank him for everything he did for me. I am so glad I did.”
Mr Flowerday also taught Rev Addis’ cousin at Antrim Grammar, where he gave him an equation to solve the Rubik’s Cube, he added.
On Facebook, Vivien E McCullough described him as “a kind, gentle man [and] very clever” while Michelle McLaughlin said he had taught her and was “a lovely man”.
Gillian McKinstry added that he came to her house most weeks to tutor her sons: “I was really fond of him. He was such a nice person.”
UUP councillor Paul Michael is a member of the local Policing and Community Safety Partnerships.
“Police have not released any information as yet but the feeling in the community is that Robert may have interrupted an intruder,” he said.
The individual who has been arrested is believed to be from the Glenavy area, he said.