Priest who won a NFL medal for Derry GAA in 1947 dies in Florida

Msgr. Laurence E. Higgins who has died
Msgr. Laurence E. Higgins who has died

A Magherafelt-born priest who won a NFL medal with Derry back in 1947, has died in Tampa, Florida at the age of 87.

Monsignor Laurence Higgins died last Wednesday from heart failure at his rectory home at St Lawrence Catholic Church - the parish he was sent to Tampa to found in 1958.

The Pulitzier prize winning Tampa Bay Times described him as “a confidant of Tampa’s power elite in politics, business and professional sports.”

He was a son of John and Philomena Higgins and was brought up on the family farm near Magherafelt.

Five years after taking his vows, Monsignor Higgins came to Tampa at the age of 29. In the years that followed, he not only created a community of faith at St Lawrence, but helped build Tampa’s commercial and social service infrastructure, serving on so many community and charitable boards he lost count.

A keen sportsman - Gaelic football and soccer - he was an All-Ireland forward, and played on two teams that won national championships.

A funeral mass will take place tomorrow (Monday) at St Lawrence Church, followed by burial at the Garden of Memories Cemetery on Wednesday.
“I’m so happy God sent me to Tampa. This is my place,” he said in 1998. “Hopefully I’m going to live and die here, with the people I love.”