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My beloved aunt took her final photographs of ICU staff minding her the night before she died

Schoolteacher Jane Hogan, from Salthill in Galway, was an avid photographer and swimmer, and known for her kindness and positivity. We always knew she was special

Weekend newspapers carry obituaries each week, accounts of lives lived which were considered notable or remarkable for one reason or another. And every week, all around the country, people die whose lives may not be considered for a newspaper column, but who deserve to be spoken of, written about and celebrated nonetheless.

My aunt died recently, after a short and unexpected illness. Jane Hogan was 77. On paper her life wasn’t especially remarkable. She was born and raised in Salthill, Co Galway, where she worked for much of her life as a teacher in Salerno, the local girls’ secondary school. While we always knew as a family that Jane was special, the reaction to her death proved just how remarkable her life was and how many other lives she touched. But mostly it was a perfect example of how important kindness, inclusivity and community are.

We are fortunate enough to be part of a large and close family, evidenced by the fact that 28 of us rushed to the ICU and made it in time to gather around her bed to say goodbye. Each year aunts, uncles, cousins and their children get together for our Kennys’ Christmas party, an annual get-together and celebration of family that would bring many people out in a rash, but an event that we look forward to for months in advance. With much of our extended group living abroad, the night resembles speed dating as we try to get a few minutes to catch up with everyone. And at the heart of this, and every other family event, every year was Aunty Jane and her camera, recording it all.

She was often referred to as the lady with the camera – it was an item she was never without. No one was safe – whether you were looking your best or your worst, Jane was always there to capture the moment. There were hundreds of tributes, both in-person and online, to how she documented the life of those on the Salthill prom, and her kindness in sharing these images with everyone in the form of personalised albums left at a front door, framed photographs dropped into a house, or her monthly update online. She was unconscious when the paramedics came to her home, but by the time she got to the hospital she was sitting up and taking their photograph and laughing with them. She took her final photographs at 10pm the night before she died, of the fabulous staff minding her in ICU. When her grandchildren checked her computer, they found 7,500 names on her photographs.


It was said at her funeral that she probably held the world record for walking Salthill prom with her beloved husband Billy. The sea was a huge part of her life. She was a daily swimmer in Blackrock, and a valued member of the swimming club, which she called the “Blackrock clinic”, the healing powers and merits of which she regularly espoused. When we brought her on her final journey, the swimmers she met every day lined the prom and applauded as her cortege passed. As the sun shone on Galway Bay it was a beautiful and touching tribute to a woman whose warmth, kindness and small but incredibly thoughtful acts made many people’s lives better every day.

Jane was the most positive person I have ever met. Bubbly, fun, engaging and always, always laughing. Her positivity and good humour were infectious, and she had an unmatched interest in everybody’s lives, especially those of her past pupils, whose achievements she would celebrate as though they were her own. Jane found her place as a teacher in Salerno and she was part of the fabric of the school. After the swimmers’ guard of honour as her cortege moved onwards, it was met by hundreds of students and staff who lined both sides of the road. It’s worth noting that it’s 12 years since Jane retired from the school. But this was the impact she had and the legacy she left.

Jane’s vibrant energy and thoughtful kindness mean she will be remembered fondly by all who knew her. One tribute noted that she “was the most loved person I have ever met”. That we may all be so lucky to be remembered in such a way.

The effect she had on people’s lives, and the extent to which she will be missed, is a testament to Jane and a life well lived, but also to the value of community, of kindness and inclusivity. And Jane had that, in spades. She was just happy to meet anyone and stop and chat and take their photo.

At a time when many have no home, much less a community to call their own, Jane’s life was proof of how important it is that everybody is allowed to be part of something bigger than themselves. How we all need each other; the security and comfort that belonging brings is not to be underestimated. Everyone deserves that.