John Deffew obituary: ‘A gentle soul’ who loved to sing

Lives lost to Covid-19: Factory worker from Mountmellick died at St Vincent’s nursing home

John Deffew: His daughter Frances describes her father as a jolly man with wild, curly hair that could never be tamed.

John Deffew: His daughter Frances describes her father as a jolly man with wild, curly hair that could never be tamed.

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. Read more at irishtimes.com/covid-19-lives-lost. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email: liveslost@irishtimes.com.

John Deffew
1945-2020

John Deffew’s beloved daughter Eileen died from cancer at the age of 39, just eight weeks before his own death on April 18th.

“She was the apple of my father’s eye. He completely adored her,” says her sister Frances. Eileen had cat eye syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

John was in St Vincent’s community nursing home in Mountmellick, Co Laois. The staff were wonderful, his daughter says and “he may as well have been in his own back garden” as some of his older neighbours were there too.

He had been struggling to manage at home with arthritis and other underlying conditions. An athlete in his youth, he ran cross country for Laois and in later life followed sports extensively and enjoyed backing horses. A regular blood donor, he received a gold pin at a special ceremony in Dublin for his contributions.

John Leo Deffew was born on November 13th, 1945, in Mountmellick to Brigid and Leo Deffew, and is survived by Frances and his siblings Billy, Andy, Mary, Elizabeth and Nan.

He started his apprenticeship as a butcher at the age of 15 with James Pim and Son in Mountmellick, subsequently working in Portlaoise.

He met his wife Brigid Garrihy while on a holiday in Co Clare, where she is from, and they were married within the year in Lisdoonvarna.

They moved to Tullamore where he got a job in the Midlands Butter and Bacon factory, working there for 24 years until the company went into liquidation in 1989.

John and Brigid went their separate ways when Frances was 11 and when she moved to Dublin aged 18 “he would have come up on the bus to me for day trips”.

She describes her father as a jolly man with wild, curly hair that could never be tamed.

“He was 5ft 11in in his prime but he always had this stature, a gentle, jolly giant.

“He was a gentle soul, loved his family, loved the chat and the joke, loved the cigarette and a pint, loved to sing. He’d sing after a few pints and he loved the Forty Shades of Green.”

John tested positive for Covid-19 on Easter Monday, April 13th.

On Saturday, April 18th, they moved his bed to a window at the back of the nursing home where his daughter could see him and she spent two hours with him. He died that night at 10pm.

Ten family members had a few hours in the funeral home to say the rosary and reminisce before they and neighbours walked behind the hearse to the local cemetery where he was buried in the family plot with his parents and extended family.

Covid-19: Lives Lost

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