The funeral of a well-loved headteacher, who died after battling cancer, was due to be held today.
John Heffernan, who had been headteacher of Gunnersbury Catholic School in Brentford for 20 years, died last Tuesday morning at the age of 54.
The school was due to be closed today so teachers and pupils could attend the funeral.
Greatly loved by past and present pupils, Mr Heffernan was a “great teacher, true friend, superb father, loving husband and a champion of Catholic education”, according to those who worked with him.
Acting headteacher, Kevin Burke, said: “Over the past few months John has displayed great courage and dignity throughout his battle with cancer.
“It is great fortune of the Gunnersbury Catholic School community to have been inspired for 20 years by a great leader and a thoroughly decent man.
“He has dedicated his life at Gunnersbury to establish a warm, caring environment where students feel secure and are challenged in the spirit of our motto - As Altiora - to reach for the highest.”Kevin Burke
“He has dedicated his life at Gunnersbury to establish a warm, caring environment where students feel secure and are challenged in the spirit of our motto - As Altiora - to reach for the highest.”
Mr Heffernan began his teaching career in the borough, taking his first teaching post at St Mark’s Catholic school, Hounslow, in 1979.
After a spell teaching at schools in Newham and Barnet, he returned to the area in 1986 to join Gunnersbury Catholic school as a senior teacher.
He was made headteacher in 1989 and is credited with helping the school gain Science Specialist School status in 2003 and for being instrumental in building a new sixth form at the school in 2004, which is now rated in the top five per cent in the country.
A tribute page on social networking site Facebook was set up this week, with tribute messages being posted from as far away as Canada and the Philippines.
One past student, Ayo Odeyale, said: “Rest in peace Mr Heffernan, thank you for all you did for us. I was one of those boys on the brink and you sent me home many, many, many times. Ultimately you let me stay and for that I'm forever grateful.”
Past head boy at the school, Michal McSperrin called Mr Heffernan “an inspirational headteacher and individual”.
Many messages from past pupils paid tribute to Mr Heffernan’s well known catchphrase: “They might be your children, but they are my boys”.
Mr Heffernan leaves wife Veronica, headteacher of St James’ primary school in Twickenham, and two sons John Paul and Gerard.
Arrangements for a permanent tribute to Mr Heffernan are being planned by the school.
His funeral was due to be held in Ealing Abbey today.