President Emeritus Guido de Marco died yesterday leaving a nation reeling in shock just hours after feeling he had been “born again” from a critical condition.

Prof. de Marco, 79, collapsed at his home in Sliema at about 3.30 p.m. and was rushed to Mater Dei Hospital where he lost a battle he had been fighting for a week since developing complications before undergoing a heart procedure.

The ladder of a fire engine was used to lift Prof. de Marco from the balcony of his third-floor apartment in Tower Road, Sliema. Members of the Civil Protection Department were seen administering CPR in a bid to get his heart beating again as they were descending.

An ambulance was waiting at the bottom of the ladder and rushed him to hospital where he died at 4.18 p.m.

Twenty-four hours earlier he had given his first and only interview to The Times after being discharged from hospital. His strong voice never faltered as he spoke excitedly about his plans to “love life all the more and live with a purpose”.

All those who knew him described him as a man with an indestructible optimism, where losing never featured in his vocabulary. These are traits that remained with him until the end and only hours previously he had said: “I don’t want to slow down... I will build on the future.”

As eulogies poured in, he was portrayed as a true statesman who had the unique qualities of unwavering principles, tenacity to never give up, skills of persuasion and the rare ability of being a fine interlocutor with his adversaries. Prof. de Marco also had the knack of making those he met feel special and touching tributes to a great man came in from all quarters, including the political parties, and all walks of life.

He will go down in the annals of history as one of Malta’s finest political orators, a key figure in the island’s emergence from troubled times, and a champion of the island’s successful bid to join the EU.

State funeral

Guido de Marco will lie in state at the presidential palace in Valletta between tomorrow and Monday morning. A cortège will then leave for St John’s Co-Cathedral where the funeral Mass will be said at 3.30 p.m. The cortège will proceed to City Gate, from where the funeral will continue privately.

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