A DEVASTATED family is in mourning after the sudden death of a community stalwart in Spain.

Mick Connor, 66, collapsed on the Costa Calida while on a get-away with his partner of 18 years, Irene Wilkins.

Tributes have been paid to the keen runner and gardener, of Queensway, Blackburn, who spent 25 years as a social worker with the youth offending team.

Irene, 60, said: “Mick’s death was so unexpected because he was so fit. We had just got to Spain with this happened.

“Mick was a very determined man and he would always see things through. He never gave up.

“He loved running and he was a member of Blackburn Harriers.

“He went on a run six days a week in any weather, it did not matter. It was his passion.”

Tests carried out in the holiday resort revealed Mick died from a heart attack.

A coroner in Blackburn ruled that the former Colne Fisher and More RC College pupil had died from natural causes.

The grandfather-of-two had taken part in many running competitions, including the three peaks, the coast to coast challenge, which he completed in just three days, and the Camino pilgrimage in northern Spain.

Before becoming a social worker, former Colne Dynamoes player Mick worked as a postman, ran a paper shop in Darwen and started his career as an apprentice electrician.

But Irene, who works at The Mall in Blackburn, said he found his true vocation in trying to help youngsters get on the right path.

She said: “A lot of what Mick did was for the good of the community and he was very good at his job.

“He had many jobs before he decided to become a social worker, but then he found his true vocation.

“And since retirement, he has become a familiar face around the auction houses.

“He would buy and sell collectables and he also loved vintage cars.”

Father-of-one Mick, who had also tried out for Burnley FC when he was younger, also enjoyed tending to his vegetable patch.

Friend George Woodburn, who knew Mick when he was a member of Blackburn Harriers, described him as a ‘great guy’.

He said: “Mick was a really lovely bloke and he got on with everybody.

“He was a happy fellow and he was really enthusiastic in everything that he did.

“He liked to compete in races and although he did not win, he just really enjoyed himself and liked being part of a team.

“Mick will be very sadly missed.”

Mick also leaves grown-up daughter Jacqueline Essery, grandsons Kyle, 12, and Lewis, eight, and brother George.

His funeral will be held at Immanuel Church, in Pleasington Lane, Blackburn, on July 9 at 12.30pm prior to cremation at Pleasington Cemetery.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made in his memory to the East Lancashire Hospice.