It is the end of an era in the town of Markethill after the passing today of Mrs Iris Alexander.
She, along with her husband, Norman, founded the Alexander’s of Markethill department store in the mid-1950s.
Mrs Alexander was aged 95.
Her sad passing comes just 19 months after the loss of her devoted husband, Norman, in September 2020, at the age of 92.
The couple opened their business 68 years ago, in 1954, and it has built up a reputation for quality, service and value all over Northern Ireland and beyond.
The Alexanders are legendary in the town and they have been held in such high regards right across the local community.
The passing of Mrs Alexander has plunged the town into sadness once again at the loss of an iconic local lady who was generous in spirit and much-loved by all who had the privilege to know her.
Of course it is her family who will feel that loss the most.
Indeed, it is they who confirmed the passing of their “amazing mum” earlier on Sunday.
They did so on social media, expressing their “deepest sadness” at having to share the news.
“Our amazing mum was loved by so many and she was known for her incredible work ethic, her love, kindness, quick sense of humour and the joy she found in talking to and getting to know people,” they wrote.
“However, her greatest legacy is the steadfast faith, hope and trust she had in the Lord Jesus which she shared with her four children, 12 grandchildren, three great grandchildren and many more. We take great comfort in knowing she has gone home to be with her Heavenly Father.
“Our mum was the best Mother, Nanny and Great Nanny we could ever have asked for and she will be hugely missed.
“We want to sincerely thank our private carers, Anne’s Homecare, the Acute Care Team, Dr Wesley Wright and the team at Markethill Health Centre for looking after our Mum so well and for all of the support you have provided to us as a family.
“Donations, in lieu of flowers, can be made to Marie Curie, who we also want to thank for their incredible support to us through this difficult time.
“Alexanders of Markethill will be closed on Monday 25th April and Tuesday 26th April. The funeral will be a small family gathering at the home on Tuesday 26th April.
“As a family, we thank you for your prayers and appreciate your support at this difficult time.”
Tributes have been paid by former staff, friends and neighbours on social media.
One described her as a “wonderful lady”, and another as a “truly beautiful soul”, while one more had fond memories of working alongside Mrs Alexander in the cafe.
And perhaps most fitting of all these words: “Your mum has run the race well and left a lasting legacy….she is now safely home. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.”
To the couple’s four children, Suzanne, Johanne, Richard and Jane, and their wider families, we would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy at this saddest of times.