Myna, Kilmeena and formerly of Liscarney, Westport
There was shock and great sadness in the Kilmeena, Westport and wider communities at the news of the untimely death of Maureen Geraghty at her home in Myna on January 2, 2019, following a year-and-a-half-long fight against cancer which she handled with immense courage and dignity.
Maureen was the second eldest of nine children born on November 14, 1941 to John and Mary Kate (née McDonnell) Kerins. Growing up in Liscarney, she attended Letterbrook National School while helping out at home and on the family farm, as well as cycling the five miles to Westport and home again when she worked in The Railway Hotel in order to help her parents financially. Despite hard work and tough times, she often spoke fondly of the fun she had in her youth and the craic at Liscarney crossroads with friends and neighbours.
From a young age, Maureen had a great interest in travelling and educating herself further so, in December of 1959, she followed in her older sister Bea’s footsteps and headed to New York where she worked hard in Manhattan during the day and went to school at night. Several summers were spent working hard but also having fun in The Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, which she loved. She always enjoyed the social scene in New York and many a laugh we’ve had listening to Mam regaling us with tales of various encounters at Irish dance halls on the upper east side of Manhattan, as well as in Queens and the Bronx where she would meet up with other Irish expatriates like herself, all working hard and sending money and parcels home to their families.
Although Maureen loved New York where she lived for four years, when she went to visit her Uncle Jim (Kerins) in Chicago, she became smitten with The Windy City where she spent a further five years and obtained her American citizenship. She would quite happily have stayed in The States had it not been for the fact that, while home on holidays in Westport and travelling to Coventry for her sister Anne’s wedding, she met the love of her life - Seán Geraghty from Kilmeena. They got married in Cushlough Church, Liscarney, on August 15, 1967 and went on to make a life for themselves in Seán’s home-place in Myna, Kilmeena for over 51 years. During these years, they made several trips together to the U.S. and Canada to visit family in New York, Chicago, Florida and Toronto, as well as having gone on a couple of Caribbean cruises which they both loved. In August of 2017, Seán and Maureen had a great party to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary with many relatives and friends at The Westport Country Lodge Hotel in Aughagower, Westport. Maureen loved nothing better than a good oul party, and she was usually the life and soul of it! Any family get-together was important to Maureen and Seán, but this golden jubilee of their wedding was an especially poignant celebration since Maureen had just been diagnosed with cancer only a couple of months earlier - yet, when given the choice, in true Maureen spirit, she insisted that the party must go on!
Maureen was an extremely devoted mother and was devastated at the loss of her very first daughter who was stillborn. She went on to have five more children: Peter, John, Maggie, Teresa and Noel, who were blessed to have such a truly caring and loving mother. Sadly, Maureen was to suffer the loss of another of her children when her eldest son, Peter, died suddenly of a heart attack 9 years ago, at the age of 39. Through this terrible loss, she and Seán were able to find solace in the love and support of their family including Peter’s daughters, Chelsea and Kayleigh. Along with Chelsea and Kayleigh, Maureen adored her other grandchildren: Ernan, Jack and most recently, she delighted in the arrival of twins, Gracy and Peter. Maureen always looked out for all of her siblings down the years and kept in close contact with them, and with cousins and extended family, whether they lived locally or in England, the U.S. and beyond. The death of her beloved older sister Bea a few years ago in Florida was heartbreaking for Maureen, as was the death of her dear cousin Monica in Florida this past November. The way Maureen dealt with these losses, as well as the dignified and very brave way in which she fought against her lung cancer, epitomized her positive attitude and strength of character.
Other prominent characteristics of Maureen’s were her strong faith as well as her strong work ethic. As caretaker of St. Brendan’s Church in Myna for 44 years (which she took over from her mighty mother-in-law, Mai Geraghty), Maureen always made sure the altar cloths were spotlessly clean and well ironed, along with all floors mopped and flowers looking perfect. She oversaw the running of the church along with Seán and always had a warm, welcoming smile when anyone came to their home in Myna, looking for the key of the church for a wedding rehearsal or choir practice or for any reason down the years. She was also the local “Mrs. Doyle” for many years, housekeeping and cooking meals for the curates assigned to the Kilmeena parish. As Fr Jim Walshe mentioned in his homily at her funeral Mass, Maureen’s dedication to the care of the church was commendable and exemplified her Christianity. As if all of this wasn’t enough work for one woman, Maureen also kept the local national school spotlessly clean when she and Seán took their turn to take care of St. Brendan’s NS.
This hardworking ethic also applied to the devotion she had to maintaining her home with Seán. They were both constantly striving to improve the house which has been in the family for generations, and which is a credit to both of them. Maureen’s well-known passion for gardening resulted in beautiful roses, tulips, carnations and many other flowers always being in bloom around the house, as well as an array of shrubs and plants, the Latin and English names of which she knew by heart. She loved giving slips to neighbours and friends and hearing how they progressed. Having shared their home and generosity with extended family down the years, they decided to do Bed and Breakfast in the early 1990s. Their humble business thrived, due mainly to Maureen’s legendary breakfasts and home baking, coupled with the genuinely warm welcome extended to all guests, who came from as far afield as India and China. Many of the guests returned on several occasions, some even said just to hear one of Maureen’s entertaining anecdotes! She was well known for her sense of humour and fondness for telling jokes - she was never happier than when she put a smile on your face!
Apart from her family, faith and home, Maureen also loved her fashion - there aren’t too many clothes shops around Mayo that she wasn’t known in - and she had a shoe collection that even Imelda Marcos would be envious of! Maureen loved music of all genres, as well as ballroom dancing which she and Seán were very involved in for many years, having won plenty of competitions together around Mayo and beyond. She also loved reading, doing crossword puzzles and watching trivia programmes/quiz shows on television.
Since her passing, Maureen has been very fondly remembered by neighbours and friends for her warmth and generosity, as well as for being very outgoing and witty, with many people recalling her great sense of humour along with the fact that she would always be seen together with Seán - going to Mass, eating out, doing the shopping together, etc, - a great partnership of almost 52 years. Her popularity was evidenced by the very large number of people who came through the family home for Maureen’s wake on Friday, January 4th, as well as the huge number in attendance at her funeral Mass in St Brendan’s Church and her burial afterwards in Myna Cemetery on Saturday, January 5th.
Maureen passed away at home in the loving company of her husband and family. She is predeceased by her parents, John and Mary Kate Kerins (Liscarney); her parents-in-law, Peter and Mai Geraghty (Myna); her sister Bea Naughton (New York and Florida); her son Peter, Kilmeena and Westport. She is deeply mourned by her husband Seán, her son John and daughter-in-law Lorraine (Castlebar), daughter Maggie and partner Mike (New York), daughter Teresa and son-in-law John (Newport), son Noel (Myna), Peter’s partner, Caroline (Westport), grandchildren Francesca, Ernan, Chelsea, Kayleigh, Jack, Gracy and Peter, brothers Bill (Westport), Seán (Coventry), Tim (Southampton), Jimmy (London) and Hughie (Liscarney); sisters Anne (Coventry) and Eileen (Galway), as well as sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews and their families, neighbours and a very wide circle of friends. May her gentle soul rest in peace.
Ode to Maureen
The fresh homely fragrance of your world class bread
Will now only exist up inside my head
You’re at peace now assisting with Sunday’s fry
Up at the mighty BandB in the sky.
If laughter is the best medicine that’s why you lived so long,
For every occasion you had a joke or rhyme some folk wisdom or song,
So the Joker in my family has told her last joke
The non-smokers smoker has smoked her last smoke.
I’m sure you’ll have a good laugh when you meet our own Saint Peter,
With your oldest and boldest teeter and toil,
Perched on a cloud high up above us,
The heavenly angels have just got a one plus.
The shock and the denial, the pain and the guilt
The anger and weary contemplation have all been felt,
Reflection and loneliness give way to the upward turn,
The reconstruction and hope from death we can learn;
These stages of bereavement are lost to me now
The acceptance of death comes like sweat on my brow.
We tried to save you from your cancerous pain;
But my actions and words were all left in vain,
The Queen of the house with her sharp witty brain,
Has sadly been taken from us by the reaper and slain.
Your place in my heart is eternally set,
I’m sure by now all the Angels and Saints you’ll be glad to have met.
Your mission was complete but the tae only wet,
You had the last laugh so there’s no need to fret
And I’ll be thinking of you when I’m having a sup,
If you fall on the steps of heaven don’t wait to get up.
Read by Maureen’s grandson, Ernan Geraghty, at the graveside.