The opera lover, the Jesuit, the GAA star... 19 of the lives lost to Covid-19

Lives lost: some of the people who have died of Covid-19 in Ireland and among the diaspora in recent weeks
BEFORE THEY DIED, THEY LIVED. THE IRISH TIMES CHRONICLES THE RICH, FULL LIVES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE DIED OF COVID-19. READ MORE AT IRISHTIMES.COM/LIVESLOST. IF YOU WOULD LIKE A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER INCLUDED IN THIS COLLECTION, EMAIL LIVESLOST@IRISHTIMES.COM

Patricia Kelly

Opera lover, 1937-2020

Patricia Kelly: she had a lifelong love of music and opera
Patricia Kelly: she had a lifelong love of music and opera

“Glamorous,” is how Patricia Kelly’s daughter-in-law, Brenda Kelly, describes her late mother-in-law. “One of the last things she was talking about was what would she wear to her granddaughter’s wedding later this year. She was always such fun, and full of energy.”

Patricia O’Connor was born on February 28th, 1937 in Dublin. As a girl, she was involved with the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society, and developed a lifelong love of music and opera. She worked in the bank and moved to Ballinasloe, Co Galway. When there, she met her husband Dermot, a consultant at Portiuncula Hospital. They married in 1961, and had four children and 10 grandchildren.

She focused on raising her family, and took up golf for leisure. She was for a period the captain of Ballinasloe Golf Club, and also played bridge.

“Honest and straight-talking,” Patricia valued the qualities of sincerity, determination and decency.

When her husband died in 2013, she made a conscious decision to continue to make the most of life. She joined an active retirement group, and “made so many new friends” as her daughter-in-law says. “You could hardly catch her, because she was out every day, between bridge and golf and aqua aerobics.”

She was an enthusiastic adapter to technology, and used a Kindle, joking to her family that they were all so behind the times with their books. She streamed every opera she could find; Madame Butterfly was a particular favourite.

Patricia was still living at home, in excellent health, and had just bought a new Ford Fiesta before she went into hospital on March 25th with a suspected kidney infection. She died on March 31st, in Portiuncula Hospital. She had been buried before her family were told hers was the 120th death from Covid-19 in Ireland. She was 83. – Rosita Boland

Fr James Hurley

Jesuit priest, 1926-2020

Fr James Hurley: spent 58 years living in Hong Kong and was a founding member of Amnesty International in the city
Fr James Hurley: spent 58 years living in Hong Kong and was a founding member of Amnesty International in the city

Fr James Hurley was immensely proud that his birthday was on China’s National Day, October 1st. The Jesuit priest, known to his community as Jimmy but as James to his family, had spent 58 years of his life in Hong Kong before returning to live in Ireland in 2014.

“He began working with secondary students in 1962 and became closely involved in the student movement there,” says his nephew Dick Lincoln.

He was also a founding member of Amnesty International in Hong Kong.

The youngest of four children, two boys and two girls, he was born in Ardmore, Co Waterford, in 1926. As a child he spent a lot of time in church activities and assisting at Mass.

He boarded with the Cistercians at Mount Mellory from 1939 to 1944 and got a university scholarship but opted instead to join the Jesuits. James studied classics at UCD and later philosophy in the Jesuit Institute.

His first two years in Hong Kong were spent learning Cantonese and teaching in a Jesuit secondary school in Kowloon. Wanting to experience life as an ordinary worker, he got a job in a textile factory where he endlessly cut cloth for what he described in an interview as four mind-numbing months.

Returning to Dublin for three years to study theology, he was ordained in 1958 before going back to Hong Kong.

His nephew says of him: “He was a rebel in ways and involved with revolutionaries but he was the most obedient man in terms of his vows and poverty and gave away everything.”

“When he’d come home during the 1980s he used to visit Long Kesh and say Mass” and Belfast was always a port of call for James, a committed nationalist.

In Hong Kong, he used to visit prisoners, including triad members and in the case of one man convicted of murder he supported the family to ensure his children were educated.

On his return to Dublin in 2014 he acted as pastor for the Cantonese-speaking Chinese and had a constant stream of visitors from Hong Kong.

In November 2019, he broke his ankle. He was recovering slowly in Cherryfield nursing home in Dublin when he contracted Covid-19.

His nephew recalls that the day before he died he was doing well and “we were discussing the Cork-Waterford Munster final of 2004”. He died on Easter Monday, April 13th, aged 93. – Marie O’Halloran

Joseph (Joe) Jennings

GAA star, 1935-2020

Joseph (Joe) Jennings: met his wife, Margo, in the UK and later became a pub landlord in Essex
Joseph (Joe) Jennings: met his wife, Margo, in the UK and later became a pub landlord in Essex

Joe Jennings was proud of the All-Ireland minor medal he won with Mayo in 1953 and the cup he got from Ballinrobe GAA club. He was proud too of getting the highest grade in Ireland for geography the year he did his Leaving Certificate.

Born in Rahard, Ballinrobe on May 13th 1935, he was the 10th of 13 children. “He wanted to join the Army but had a knee injury so he went to the UK and met my mum Margo, a trainee nurse from Dungarvan,” says his daughter Rhoda.

Joe and Margo married in September 1960. “He trained to be an accountant but always wanted to be his own boss and in 1967, he and my mum took over a pub and he became landlord of The George in Witham, Essex.”

They returned to Ireland in 1981 and opened Kenilworth nursing home in Rathgar, which they ran until their retirement, when they moved to nearby Rathmines.

“When he couldn’t play GAA anymore he took up golf and he met his friends and he loved his garden.”

He became Margo’s carer when she developed dementia and he minded her until he had to go into hospital.

He had a bypass four years ago when he was 80, never fully recovered, and went into St James’s hospital in early February for treatment for his slowly failing heart. Somebody in the ward was diagnosed with Covid-19. He too then tested positive on March 27th.

He died on April 9th and along with his All-Ireland medal and cup, photos and flowers from his garden were placed on his coffin. “He was always waiting for Mayo to win the All-Ireland but he’ll be watching it from somewhere.” – Marie O’Halloran

Florence Wylie

Businesswoman, 1940-2020

A striking Florence Wylie on her wedding day. Florence Wylie pictured on her wedding day: she opened a drapery shop in Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, in 1964
Florence Wylie pictured on her wedding day: she opened a drapery shop in Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, in 1964

Florence Wylie was born Florence Mills on December 23rd, 1940, in Ballybay, Co Monaghan. She was one of 11 children and raised on a farm.

As a young girl she went to work in England for some years; in wool and fabric shops. She had met cattle dealer Nelson Wylie prior to travelling to England and they continued to correspond by letter throughout her time there.

The couple married and settled in Castleblayney. They had two children and, subsequently, two grandchildren. In 1964 she established a drapery shop in the town’s main street, which is still remembered today. “It was one of those drapery shops that sold everything from bras to buttons to zips,” recalls her daughter Helen. “People bought their debs dresses there.”

As her daughter recalls, The entire town knew the kind woman who ran the drapery could be called upon in a sartorial emergency. When she and her sister were home from college one weekend, there was a knock on the door, and a delivery of a box of chocolates to her mother.

“It was from a girl who had called to the house the week before on her way to the nightclub. She had torn her tights, and my mother got her another pair. That was her all over; she was a very kind person.”

Her husband died in 2000. In 2004, she decided to shut her shop. “What she most missed about giving up the shop was talking to people; she was such a social being.”

In 2018 she moved into Drumbear Lodge Nursing Home in Monaghan. “She loved the nursing home and went around the whole place like a social butterfly, talking to everyone.”

On April 10th she developed breathing problems and her daughters were subsequently called in. Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Florence Wylie was dead. Her family didn’t know she had died of Covid-19 until after she had died. She was 79. – Rosita Boland

Harry O’Callaghan

Emigrant, 1946-2020

Harry O’Callaghan: emigrated to the UK in the 1960s and began his career working in the Savoy Hotel
Harry O’Callaghan: emigrated to the UK in the 1960s and began his career working in the Savoy Hotel

Harry O’Callaghan had always dreamed of owning a house in France. Last year he finally signed the papers on his own French holiday home, just months before he died from Covid-19 at the age of 75.

Born on January 9th, 1946, to Jim and Bridie O’Callaghan, Harry had one sister, Noreen, and three brothers: Don, Jim and Seanie. Stationed in Cork with the Defence Forces, his father commuted home to Fermoy every weekend.

At school Harry’s “effortless intelligence” was the envy of his class, according to fellow pupil and brother-in-law Billy Meaney. He attended primary school in Barrack Hill in Fermoy, and went on to CBS secondary school. He was an altar boy, a field runner and a member of Fermoy Confraternity Brass and Reed Band.

After completing his Leaving Certificate, he emigrated to England in the 1960s. Harry started his working life at the Savoy Hotel, before embarking on a career in office procedures at IBM. He went on to become a manager at Shell, where he met his wife Francis in 1982. They married in 1985.

The couple had three daughters, Kate, Lucy and Polly. He later became a grandfather to Hugo and Xanthe.

Although he chose to make a life for his own young family in London, Harry returned to Ireland for all big family occasions, always staying with his sister Noreen. His flashy cars arriving into Fermoy were a talking point for the town.

2020 marked 30 years of sobriety for Harry, which he was very proud of, according to his family. In recent years he was a volunteer with the AA telephone helpline, and had been described as a “stalwart of the service”.

On March 18th, he developed symptoms of Covid-19. Ten days later he was admitted to hospital with pneumonia, and died on April 6th. – Ciara Kenny

Francis Musgrave

Ballroom dancer, 1920-2020

Francis Musgrave: a regular at the National Ballroom with his wife, Elizabeth
Francis Musgrave: a regular at the National Ballroom with his wife, Elizabeth

“He spent his whole life in Dublin,” Eamon Musgrave says of his father, Francis. He grew up in Phibsborough, and then spent the rest of his life near the Navan Road.

At 16, he went to work for CIÉ as a coach builder. He spent his entire working life there. “He was a hard worker. He worked six days a week, and did overtime on Saturdays.”

In 1956, he married Elizabeth Fay. They had two children, and seven grandchildren.

Francis never learned to drive, as he availed all his life of the free travel that came as part of his job. While he wore overalls every day to work, in his leisure time, he always wore a tie and a suit jacket, “even if he was just getting the bus into town”. When not on a bus, he was on his bike. A non-smoker, he liked to keep fit.

Together with Elizabeth, they dressed up in the evenings and went ballroom dancing in the National Ballroom. The two of them went to “every horse meet around Dublin.” The Curragh, Fairyhouse, Leopardstown. They travelled as far as the Isle of Man a few times, but no further, preferring home.

“He valued old-fashioned honesty. He was a man of faith, who never missed Mass on Sundays.”

When Francis’s wife died in 1998, and then his son in 1999, he received great support from the family and friends who lived near him on the Navan Road, especially his niece, Helen Finn. He still went to the bookies, eventually learned to cook a chicken, and loved watching all kinds of sports on television: racing, snooker, football.

He moved to Elm Green Nursing Home two years ago, where he continued to wear a tie every day. He died on March 29th, two days before his Covid-19 test came back positive. Francis Musgrave would have been 100 years old this November. – Rosita Boland

Brigid Sreenan

Farm girl, 1931-2020

Brigid Sreenan: a ‘very independent’ woman who was well used to ‘fighting her corner’. Photograph: Aileen O’Carroll
Brigid Sreenan: a ‘very independent’ woman who was well used to ‘fighting her corner’. Photograph: Aileen O’Carroll

“She always said she was never happier than when she was helping her father on the bog as a child,” recalls Dermot Sreenan of his mother, who was born Brigid Fallon on May 27th, 1931, in the townland of Greenhall, Co Longford.

Her family were small-hold farmers. “She was from that generation who had nothing,” he says. “It was in the days when sons inherited everything; all the land, and she was bitter about that, I do know that. She would have wanted to stay on the farm, but couldn’t.”

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Brigid left school soon after the age of 12. She was sent to work with an aunt at a hotel in Moate, Co Westmeath. “It was indentured slavery. Cleaning rooms for no pay, she got money to go to the pictures and that was all.”

After two years, during which time she had not once been home to see her parents, Brigid returned home for a holiday and decided not to return to Moate. She went on to first work in a bar and grocery in Sligo and then at a series of golf clubs in the east of the country. When she was working at Baltray in Co Louth, she met James Sreenan, who was working in the local post office.

They married in 1966 and when he was promoted they moved to Cavan. They had two children and, subsequently, three grandchildren.

“My mother always used to fight her corner. That came from her experience with the aunt. She would say, ‘don’t let people push you around’.” She wouldn’t tolerate people trying to plámás her and she wouldn’t tolerate bullies. She was very independent.”

When her husband died in 2004, Sreenan “made the most of her new independence” and travelled to spend time with other family members in the United States and United Kingdom.

In January of this year, Sreenan moved to Craddock House Nursing Home in Naas, Co Kildare, where she had settled in well. She had a good friend already there and the two of them used to joke about organising a “break out” once the restrictions on visiting came into place.

Sreenan contracted Covid-19 in March and died on Easter Sunday. She was 88. – Rosita Boland

Thomas Meade

Civil servant, 1931-2020

Thomas Meade: he loved sports, particularly GAA and the Dubs, as well as horseracing
Thomas Meade: he loved sports, particularly GAA and the Dubs, as well as horseracing

Thomas Meade’s devotion to his wife Maureen was such that when it became obvious she would need nursing home care, he decided they would move into one together in Loughshinny, near their Rush, Co Dublin, home.

After 63 years of marriage they moved in December 2019, and he joined the choir there in an effort to settle in. Before long they were both participating in activities like bingo and arts and crafts, and he was looking forward to spring, being in the garden and perhaps going to local beaches.

He was brought to Beaumont Hospital on April 7th, diagnosed with coronavirus the next day, and, poignantly for a man of great faith and a love of Easter, died on Good Friday.

Born in Dublin on October 22nd, 1931, Thomas Meade was the youngest of seven children, with five sisters, one of whom died in childhood, and a brother, Maurice. All his siblings predeceased him.

He grew up beside Croke Park, winning a scholarship to O’Connell’s secondary school. He excelled in the Civil Service exams, and became an official of the Department of Health. There he met Maureen Sheehan, who, at 17, had just moved to Dublin from Macroom, Co Cork.

They both worked in the General Registry Office, but she had to leave the Civil Service when they got married in 1956. He retired in 1988 as registrar general.

A man of many interests, he loved sports, particularly GAA and the Dubs, as well as horseracing – a love of which he shared with his son Maurice. Throughout his career he worked part time on the “tote” and continued until he was 77.

He also enjoyed family holidays, film, current affairs, reading, walking and debating.

“Dad instilled in us a strong sense of public service and a number of his children followed in his footsteps,” his daughters Maria and Madeline say. – Marie O’Halloran

Teresa Kelly

‘A simple life’, 1930-2020

Teresa Kelly: interested in history, current affairs and politics, especially elections and the ensuing counts
Teresa Kelly: interested in history, current affairs and politics, especially elections and the ensuing counts

“She was genuine, selfless and loving,” says Gabriel Kelly of his late mother, Teresa Kelly. She was born Teresa Smith on October 9th, 1930, in Tullybrick, Co Cavan.

At the age of 16 she went first to Newcastle in Northern Ireland and then Belfast, where she worked as a housekeeper and cook. While in Belfast she met Patrick Kelly, a painter and decorator. They married in 1962, had three children and subsequently three grandchildren.

In 1968 they came back to her home place and settled there. Unusually for that era she inherited the farm, being an only child.

Teresa did not work outside the home after having her children. “Like a typical Irish mother, she made sacrifices for everybody,” says Gabriel Kelly. She was interested in history, current affairs and politics, with elections and the ensuing counts being a particular joy. However, her family was her central focus. “Everything rotated around her family.”

A highlight of her life, and one of the few times she left the country, was a meeting with Pope John Paul II in Italy in 1989, on the occasion of Gabriel being ordained a deacon. “She led a very simple life,” says Gabriel. “What she valued most in people was honesty and them being down to earth.”

Patrick Kelly died in 2013. After a fall in 2017, Teresa moved to Oak View nursing home in Belturbet, Co Cavan. From March 25th to April 3rd she was at Cavan General Hospital where Gabriel, a hospital chaplain, was able to see her daily.

On April 3rd, Teresa Kelly was readmitted to Oak View Nursing Home. She died the following day on April 4th before her Covid-19 test came back positive. She was 89. – Rosita Boland

Elizabeth Morris

‘Wicked humour’, 1929-2020

Elizabeth Morris: in 1949 she met postman Tom Morris at a 21st birthday party and they married the following year
Elizabeth Morris: in 1949 she met postman Tom Morris at a 21st birthday party and they married the following year

Elizabeth Morris was the cornerstone of her family and set the tone for everything in her Cloiginn Road home in Dublin’s Ballyfermot.

Widowed in 1970 at the age of 39 with 12 children between 18 and two, she had grown up in a military family. Also known as Betty, she was born on October 9th, 1929 in what is now Cathal Brugha barracks.

She worked in a launderette and did invisible mending on expensive shirts, a skill she passed on to her children and some grandchildren.

In 1949 she met postman Tom Morris at a 21st birthday party and they married the following year. They settled in Ballyfermot, where they had seven boys and five girls – Patrick, Maria, Thomas, Caroline, Jacqueline, Imelda, Sean, Noel, Gregory, Richard, Denis and Priscilla. Their eldest child Francis was stillborn.

In the eulogy at her funeral mass, her daughter Jacqueline described their home as a “busy house full of fun, frolics, smells of cooking, rows, and makey-up concerts on the landing”.

But it all changed when their Dad died of a heart attack. Money was tight and Elizabeth worked many jobs to supplement her income. Her final job before retirement was on the general staff at Senior College Ballyfermot.

All her children had chores and her standards were high. “Shoes had to be polished, shirts tucked in, homework complete”, and they all had to be up early for Mass.

She was a great cook and baker but in her latter years “she absolutely loved junk food, curries, fish’n’chips, cream cakes and especially a good fry up”, says Jacqueline. And she had a “wicked” sense of humour, along with the most infectious laugh.

She loved music, ballet, and was a great reader, well informed about current affairs, gossip on celebs, sports and politics and she loved travels across Europe with family members.

She spent the last 11 months of her life in Marymount Care Centre in Lucan where she especially loved getting breakfast in bed, her knitting class and having a voice at the residents’ meetings.

Elizabeth was diagnosed with Covid-19 on April 4th and died in Holy Week on Spy Wednesday April 8th, aged 90. – Marie O’Halloran

James Hynes

‘Jim-for-a-while’, 1940-2020

James Hynes: he got his nickname from his gentle, tactful way of dealing with underperforming GAA players
James Hynes: remained close to his Mayo roots and always supported the county in GAA matches

He was christened James Hynes, but his nickname was “Jim-for-a-while”, explains his daughter Caitriona Hynes. A life-long supporter of the GAA, and a man who gave up much of his time training junior teams, he got the nickname from his gentle, tactful method of handling players who were not doing their best on the field.

“He’d never criticise their performance or say they were having a bad day. He’d just say, ‘ah, I’ll take you off for a while’, even though they’d inevitably be off then for the rest of the game. He was kind to everyone. The weakest player was treated the same as the strongest player.”

James Hynes was born near Claremorris, Co Mayo, on October 12th, 1940; one of seven children. He worked as a panel beater and spray painter for a garage in Claremorris, before moving on to Cork city to continue in this line of work. He married Mary Slattery, and they had five children, and 11 grandchildren. The family settled in Bishopstown in Cork.

He worked in the city, and made a practice of cycling home every day for his dinner. In 1981, he left the motor industry and became general operator in Eli Lilly in Kinsale, a pharmaceutical company.

He remained close to his Mayo roots, regularly visiting family there, and always supported Mayo in GAA matches. A keen practitioner of DIY, he was always helping out with jobs his family needed doing; doing carpentry, putting up lights. “He was a kind, loving and caring man. He was always doing things for us. All his tools are still out in the garage.”

James Hynes went into Cork University Hospital on March 29th, and died of Covid-19 two days later. – Rosita Boland

Alice Kennedy

Activist, 1937-2020

Alice Kennedy: worked tirelessly for others in London, with ‘the interests of the most vulnerable closest to her heart’
Alice Kennedy: worked tirelessly for others in London, with ‘the interests of the most vulnerable closest to her heart’

Alice Kennedy’s abilities as an organiser shone through in her work with the Irish Elderly Advice Network in London and her establishment of the Irish Elderly choir, which performed in the Royal Albert Hall.

“There was no such thing as it couldn’t be done,” her brother Séamus Culleton says of her bubbly, problem-solving personality.

A native of Clonaslee, Co Laois, she was born on March 2nd 1937 to William Culleton a Land Commission worker and his wife Mary Tobin. She was the fourth-youngest in a family of 12.

She moved to London in 1962, aged 25, and always lived in Kentish town, working first in Woolworth’s and then for 39 years for the John Lewis department store, becoming a manager in charge of complaints and returned goods.

With her retirement and the early death 10 years ago of her husband Frank, she turned to community activism and was one of a core group who established the advice network, a support group.

“So many people had nothing in London. Some were homeless and she became involved in getting many back on the road and some back home to Ireland,” her brother says. “They also organised tea parties, social dancing and bingo, got people together and kept it going.”

From the time she went to London she always sent money home to her parents. Alice had a great relationship with all her siblings and “kind of tied us all together”, says Séamus Culleton.

She also ran the Tara Pensioners’ group from a 17th floor tower block flat in Kentish Town. Her organisational skills then turned to establishing the Irish Elderly Choir, keeping the Irish songs of her generation going. It toured many Irish centres across England and performed with Foster and Allen in the Royal Albert Hall.

Always active and busy, she was described as a “stalwart” of the London-Irish community by Irish Ambassador to the UK Adrian O’Neill, and “a most noble daughter of Ireland” by President Michael D Higgins.

Alice was admitted to hospital on March 25th having shown flu-like symptoms and died a week later, a priest by her side as none of her family could be with her. – Marie O’Halloran

John McGroddy

Golfer, 1938-2020

John McGroddy with his wife, Nell. After retiring he opened a successful hardware business in Swords. Nell is now recovering from the virus
John McGroddy with his wife, Nell. After retiring he opened a successful hardware business in Swords. Nell is now recovering from the virus

John McGroddy and his wife Nell were both in the Tara Winthrop nursing home in Swords, Co Dublin, when they contracted Covid-19 within days of each other.

While Nell is recovering from the virus, John, called Johnny by his family, died on March 29th. The couple were together for more than half a century.

The funeral was an eerie experience, with no hugging or consoling each other and standing apart in the car park. “And that was very hard that we couldn’t celebrate his life,” the life of the retired garda, a cornerstone of the community.

Golf was a huge part of his life. He was born in Carrickart in northwest Donegal close to the famous Rosapenna links course and “he used to say he grew up caddying for the gentry”. He had three brothers and four sisters.

Johnny worked in Scotland as a carpenter before being accepted as a trainee garda in the early 1960s.

He was one of six recruits posted to Swords, where he and the five other gardaí each built their own house on a plot of land on Brackenstown Road.

A garda until 1986, he opened a timber and hardware shop in Swords called Big J, a successful business he ran for about 14 years until an economic slump hit and the store closed.

Throughout his working life and into retirement Johnny remained passionate about golf, with a handicap of six or seven. He joined Donabate Golf Club and served as captain in 2007.

He went into the nursing home three years ago as he was becoming less mobile and his wife struggled to take care of him. Nell moved there a year ago to be with him.

In the end “it all came down suddenly. Within three or four days we were told it was getting worse and next thing he was gone”. Johnny is survived by Nell, his children Dominic, Una, Kate, Jake and Seán, siblings Winnie, Michael and Bernadette and 10 grandchildren. – Marie O’Halloran

Betty Hart

‘Superb knitter’, 1931-2020

Betty Hart: every autumn she picked blackberries, and many locals enjoyed her pots of jam over the years
Betty Hart: every autumn she picked blackberries, and many locals enjoyed her pots of jam over the years

She was christened Kathleen Elizabeth Ryan on June 19th, 1931, in Cobh, Co Cork, but was always known as Betty. The family moved to Clonakilty when she was 11, and that’s where she spent the rest of her life.

She married Patrick Hart in 1955, and had to give up her job in the Department of Agriculture, due to the marriage bar. They had seven children and 20 grandchildren. On the death of her grandmother, her father inherited a grocery shop in the town, and Hart took over the running of it. Her youngest child was then a year old.

“She ran it until 1989, and then we changed it to a wool shop,” her daughter, Maria Hennessy says. “She was a superb knitter. Even to the day she died, she was wearing the Fair Isle hats she made herself.”

A “ball of energy”, she regularly walked, cycled, and was still swimming at the local leisure centre until last year.

Before the death of her husband in 2006, the two of them made many trips abroad in their car. Her task, pre-Google Maps and sat navs, was as navigator, and she always had her research done and her lists of towns all made out before they set off. They drove to France, Germany, Switzerland, England and Scotland.

“She always said her 60s were the best decade of her life. She loved good fun, and talking to people. She knew everyone from being in the shop, and everyone knew her. She’d say to people, ‘You’re looking lovely today’.” She loved clothes, and she was always admiring people and their style.

The wool shop closed when she was approaching 70, and had decided to retire. Another daughter, Aileen, then took over the premises as a coffee shop. “She used to call to the coffee shop every single morning for coffee and scones; she was an institution in Clonakilty.”

Her daughter Maria describes her as “resilient”; a resilience that became even more pronounced when Hart was diagnosed with dementia six years ago.

She went into Clonakility Community Hospital in January of this year. She tested positive for Covid-19 on April 11th, and died there on April 21st. She was 88. – Rosita Boland

John Deffew

Athlete, 1945-2020

John Deffew: an athlete in his youth, in later life he followed sports extensively and enjoyed backing horses
John Deffew: an athlete in his youth, in later life he followed sports extensively and enjoyed backing horses

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.

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.

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. When Frances 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 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. – Marie O’Halloran

Bernard King

Garda, 1932-2020

Bernard King: a garda in Dublin from 1953-1980 before finishing his career as chief superintendent in Dún Laoghaire
Bernard King: a garda in Dublin from 1953-1980 before finishing his career as chief superintendent in Dún Laoghaire

Bernard King started his working life building roads for Mayo County Council. Advised to apply for the guards, he did a correspondence course from Kilroy’s College to prepare for the Garda exam.

A garda in Dublin from 1953-1980, he was promoted and moved to Boyle, Co Roscommon. After a few years, it was back to Dublin, a further promotion and time in Cavan-Monaghan, before finishing his policing career as chief superintendent in Dún Laoghaire, until obligatory retirement on his 60th birthday in 1992.

His granddaughter Maedbh says one his colleagues recalled that if someone brought a problem to him, his response was “You now have half a problem, I have the other half.”

“He was fantastic at making and keeping friends,” his son Tim says. “He had friendships going back to his childhood years and his memory was phenomenal. He remembered every single thing, all his days at school, his dates and times.”

Originally from Breaffy in Co Mayo, he settled in the Blackrock area of Dublin with his wife Marjorie who died at the age of 67 from Alzheimer’s disease. The couple had three children: Tim; Kate who lives in the US; and Bryan; and there are 10 grandchildren.

For the next 20 years he was “involved in almost every aspect of community life, from his volunteer work in Foxrock parish and active retirement to bowling and dancing classes with friends,” says Maedbh.

He had a regular Tuesday night get-together in the Grange pub with his sons and brother-in-law and “he spent many happy days cycling in Wicklow and he loved to go fishing on the lakes of Lough Conn and Lough Mask in his beloved west of Ireland”.

His death was unexpected after he was admitted to St Vincent’s hospital for foot surgery. A test later confirmed he had Covid-19. Up to a few hours before his death he seemed to be holding his own but then slipped away, aged 87. – Marie O’Halloran

Marie Keown

Artist and singer, 1935-2020

Marie Keown with her husband, Eamonn: the couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with family in Rome
Marie Keown with her husband, Eamonn: the couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with family in Rome

Marie Keown (nee Kelly) was born in Arklow, Co Wicklow on August 1st, 1935, the eldest of three daughters. Her parents Kathleen and John brought the family up at Connelly Street in the town centre.

Keown was educated at St Mary’s College Arklow, and it was there that she developed a love of singing and art. She took part in local song contests as a girl and on leaving school became a decorative artist at Arklow Pottery.

Marie and her closest friend, Betty Cranny, left Arklow in the late 1950s for the bright lights and excitement of London. She furthered her education through evening classes and worked her way up to become a librarian at the British Library in the mid-1960s. She used to tell a story of how she served a young Prince Charles in the famous round reading room at the library. He used a pseudonym, “Mr Woods”, she recalled.

She met Eamonn Keown in 1965 through a social event at Corpus Christi church in Brixton, which then had a large Irish community. So began a 50-year love affair. They married in 1968 at the church in Arklow.

The couple had three children, Gerard, Paul and Edwina. Bedrooms were painted with murals, and Keown’s oil and watercolour paintings adorned the walls.

Summers were spent in Co Wicklow and Co Fermanagh and, in 2008, the couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with a family trip to Rome and renewed their vows at a ceremony in the Irish College.

“By the time my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary together, dementia had entered our lives,” says Gerard. Marie slowly succumbed to this silent disease as she approached her 80th year, and Eamonn decided it was time to return to Ireland. He had dreamt of returning to Co Fermanagh, but his wife’s illness made this impractical, and they opted instead to move to Maynooth in Co Kildare.

Keown spent her final years in the care of the staff at Maynooth Community Care Unit. She passed away peacefully there on April 17th having contracted Covid-19. Marie Keown was buried at a family plot in Cashel near Garrison in Co Fermanagh. – Rodney Edwards

Sheila Geoghegan

Air hostess, 1941-2020

Sheila Geoghegan: she was part of the Aer Lingus cabin crew when The Dubliners went on their first tour to Germany
Sheila Geoghegan: she was part of the Aer Lingus cabin crew when The Dubliners went on their first tour to Germany

Sheila Geoghegan’s early career as one of Aer Lingus’s first air hostesses in the 1960s brought together three of her great loves: travel, music, and meeting people.

The second-youngest of six children, she was born in Warrenpoint, Co Down on April 22nd, 1941. Sheila trained as a library assistant, before travelling to London to work as a personal secretary to a blind barrister in a legal firm.

In the early 1960s, she returned to Dublin to join Aer Lingus as one of their first air hostesses. She flew back and forth to European destinations, before graduating to the transatlantic crew. She loved going to concerts and shows on Broadway while in New York. She was part of the cabin crew when The Dubliners went on their first tour to Germany.

At Dublin Airport, she met Michael Geoghegan, who was working for Aer Lingus as a purchasing manager (later for Aer Rianta International, where he helped open many Duty-Free shops around the world). They married at the Church of St Mary on Haddington Road in 1965. They had three children, Niall, Barry and Conor, and lived in Clontarf, Raheny and Malahide.

After her youngest son was born, Sheila left Aer Lingus to spend time at home with her family. She returned to work years later after her sons had moved out, as a library assistant at Trinity College.

“Growing up, she was our moral compass,” says her son Niall. “She was a big fan of music, and introduced us to many great musical artists through her records. She used to quote poems her father had taught her. She was very knowledgeable about the great painters from all over the world.”

Through her sons’ love of football, she became a great fan of the game herself, following Liverpool, Arsenal, Celtic and of course, Ireland.

In recent years, Sheila suffered from ill health; her strength never fully recovered after surviving seven weeks on a ventilator with double pneumonia 12 years ago. She lived at home in Sutton with community care support, until she was taken to Beaumont hospital on April 10th. Within 24 hours she had been diagnosed with Covid-19. She said goodbye to all her children and grandchildren over the phone, and spent a couple of hours with her son Barry at her side the day before she died, on April 19th.– Ciara Kenny

Tom Mulholland

Pioneer, 1936-2020

Tom Mulholland: a great athlete who continued to run as a veteran
Tom Mulholland: a great athlete who continued to run as a veteran

Born on March 8th, 1936, Tom Mulholland lived his entire life in Kilkerley, a small village just outside Dundalk. Tom was a farmer, and following his schooling, he worked with his father on the family farm. He spent every day working the fields and building up his dairy herd.

Tom married Margaret Conlon on August 1st, 1968, and they had eight children, James, Ann Marie Thomas, Roisin, Mairéad, John, Claire and Eilish. Tom was a great athlete and represented Louth and Leinster at senior level. He continued to run as a veteran, and remained involved with athletics at an organisational level into his late 70s.

He loved all sports including GAA, and was an honorary president of Kilkerley Emmets GFC. Some of his proudest days were watching his children play Gaelic, ladies Gaelic and camogie at all levels for club and county.

In his later life, Tom enjoyed going on organised farming holidays with Margaret to Portugal and Italy, and loved meeting new like-minded people from all over the country. A highlight on the couple’s social calendar was the Galway races, which they travelled to with friends every year.

Tom died on April 20th in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda. He had been admitted on Easter Sunday from Dealgan Nursing Home, the facility taken over by the HSE April 17th as it struggled to cope with an outbreak of coronavirus.

“A life-long pioneer, Tom was a gentle man who always took time to listen and then speak with whomever came his way,” says his daughter Roisin. “Not a number, not a statistic, but a much loved, much missed man who always gave more than he ever looked for.” – Ciara Kenny