Lives Lost to Covid-19: Des Manahan was a legend of the stage in Waterford

In recent years, Des was heavily involved with the Waterford High Hopes choir

Des and Mona Manahan:  a group of their friends organised a surprise renewal of their vows in Las Vegas for their 50th wedding anniversary

Des and Mona Manahan: a group of their friends organised a surprise renewal of their vows in Las Vegas for their 50th wedding anniversary

 

This article is one of a series about people who have died with coronavirus in Ireland and among the diaspora. You can read more of them here. If you would like a friend or family member included in the series, please email liveslost@irishtimes.com

Des Manahan

1934-2021

Des Manahan “died before he ever got old”, says his son Simon. A legend of the stage in Waterford, he was an actor of elegance and talent.

Born on Bellevue Terrace on John’s Hill in the city, he started performing in the 1940s at the Theatre Royal, where his father had been manager, and never stopped, until his last big performance as Gus in Cats in 2019, at the age of 84. His career had many high points, including 13 starring roles in The Merry Widow, but the one he was most thrilled by, says Simon, was a surprise lifetime achievement award at the Waterford News & Star’s Green Room awards, presented to him at his beloved Theatre Royal in early 2020.

His cousin was Anna Manahan, though in Waterford the relationship is more often described the other way round: Anna Manahan was “related to Des”.

In recent years, he was heavily involved with the Waterford High Hopes choir and had become a make-up artist of not inconsiderable talent for his wife, Mona, after she began to lose her eyesight due to macular degeneration – a skill which led them both to a brief brush with internet fame two years ago, after they caught the attention of the Kardashians’ make-up artist.

Beyond all of the accolades, he was a deeply devoted husband to Mona, a proud father and an energetic, fun-loving grandfather to his grandchildren.

“He loved making people relaxed and at ease. But most of all, he just adored Mom.” For Des and Mona’s 50th wedding anniversary eight years ago, a group of their friends organised a surprise renewal of their vows in Las Vegas.

“He loved life. He loved every single encounter in life. He appreciated every experience, whether it was crawling around on the floor with his grandchildren, or jumping around on stage. He would have outlived every one of us,” says Simon.

Des was a naturally resilient person, not someone to brood on worries or sadness. He was devastated by the death of his son Desmond last April, “but he had an ability to put the best foot forward, and take the hurt and the pain, and just find a way of smiling through it,” says Simon.

“I’ll miss phoning him. I’ll miss that cheery hello.” He was still offering a big, cheery hello down the phone, even after he had to be admitted to hospital with Covid in early January. He died on January 22nd.

Speaking to this newspaper in May 2019 about the secrets of a long marriage, Des said, “Every single night without fail, Mona will be sitting on the edge of the bed reading with the light down low. And every night I’ll come in, and we’ll have a hug and a kiss and I’ll sit down beside her and we’ll have a chat about nothing.”

Covid-19: Lives Lost

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