Martin Nelis, 54 and originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, had served in the US for over a decade as a dedicated public servant, Public Information Office for Pleasant Hill, California.
A father of three, he is also mourned by his mother, former Sinn Fein MLA for Foyle, Mary Nelis.
According to ABC7 in San Francisco, Nelis was riding his bike with a friend along the Reliez Valley Road in Lafayette around lunchtime on Thursday, August 2, when a call came into the Contra Costa County Sheriff about a man hit by a big-rig truck. He was rushed to the hospital but died there from his injuries.
Flowers 💐 lay along the road where Martin Nelis was hit and killed while riding his bike 🚲 in Lafayette. 💔Neighbors say the winding road x increased development in the area are a recipe for tragedy. 5/6pm 📺 pic.twitter.com/eEMvX69yy4— Dion Lim (@DionLimTV) August 3, 2018
Tim Flaherty, the mayor of Pleasant Hill and a friend and colleague of Nelis', gave a heartfelt statement about Nelis and his impact on the community.
"Martin was often the first to volunteer for any civic event or meeting, and the last to leave and turn off the lights," a statement from the city said.
Mayor Flaherty described him as the "quintessential dedicated public servant and a wonderful member of the community".
“There’s been a huge tear in the community fabric. He became so involved in virtually every public aspect, like community events. Martin was incredibly bright and witty and a true Irishman.”
Last night, I got home to the worst news imaginable. My Uncle, Martin Nelis, was killed in a bike incident in California yesterday. Of course, the clan means a lot to me and to us and right now the Nelis/MacNiallais Clan is heartbroken. No matter which god/gods you pray to, pic.twitter.com/P3dALShKy7— Colm MacNiallais #NeverAgain (@colmmac) August 3, 2018
He added: "This is a wonderful place to work, to play, to live, and a lot of that, most of it, is because of Martin’s hard work.
"We’re all kind of absorbing what this means to everything he was involved in for the city."
Pleasant Hill's Summer By the Lake concert series on Sunday night turned into a tribute for Nelis and a celebration of his life, featuring one of his favorite local bands The Big Jangle.
Tonight , as part of Sunset By The Lake Concert Series,The Big Jangle will perform in front of Pleasant Hill City Hall. Also a Celebration of Life for Martin Nelis. Expecting Large Crowd from 6pm-8pm. 🎸🎶😎 pic.twitter.com/SjPXRhvRvW— Kevin Kennedy (@kennedy_kevin) August 5, 2018
According to the Irish News, there will be a memorial service in Pleasant Hill on Thursday, August 9, after which Nelis' ashes will be returned to Derry.
“Welcome to Marty’s Party”. A tribute for the late Martin Nelis PIO for #PleasantHill since 2007.He is credited for events like the summer concert series where his favorite band The Jangles just played in his honor. Mayor Flaherty shares his memories at 8pm on @kron4news #bayarea pic.twitter.com/XMA1ff3A4d— Ella Sogomonian (@EllaSogomonian) August 6, 2018