Altamount Street, Westport, Co Mayo
John Coffey was a big man in every way. He had a big spirit, a big mind and a big heart, - the embodiment of faith, hope and love. He was a family man, a community man, a sportsman and a great neighbour.
Coff, as he was affectionately called, was known far and wide through his expert craftsmanship as a monumental sculptor. He was especially remembered at the Máméan pilgrimage on August 1. He created the Máméan stations cross, erected St Patrick’s statue and carved the cross on the chapel and Mass rock. “His sculptural legacy is there to inspire pilgrims for generations to come”, said Fr Micheál Mac Gréil, Guardian of Máméan.
Archbishop Michael Neary described John Coffey as a “multi-talented man” whose “track of his hand and the proof of his skill and giftedness will be a permanent reminder” for all. In homes, memorials and monuments, “quality marked his creations”, said Fr Tony King as his funeral Mass, “from Achill to Athenry and Aughamore to Omey Island.”
One friend quipped, “A bit like God, Coff is everywhere! Memorials, fireplaces, worktops, house name plaques, sundials and garden furniture.” He noted Coff’s work in Croagh Patrick chapel, Máméan, Achill, the Mall (Major John), the Quay (Idle Wall and Clew Bay Disaster memorial) and especially his work on St Patrick’s Monument on the Octagon with sculptor Ken Thompson, (who, with his wife Rachel, became lifelong friends to John and Anne Coffey). There’s no doubt St Patrick gave St Peter a day off so that he could personally welcome Coff to heaven!
Coff was a noted footballer. Westport United colleague, Pádraig Burns, described him as “the ultimate team player, tough as nails but he knew how to pass a ball too.” Coff left his mark on the field (and on many a shin!) but off the field he was a gentle giant. In later years, he was an expert squash player.
Renowned for his generosity, kindness and sense of humour he was great company. “When you left his company”, said Fr Tony, “you walked away with a lighter step.” He had an innate sense of fair play, honesty and integrity, virtues he practiced among family, neighbours, friends and customers.
He loved music and, as a young lad, hitched across country to get the latest records. Mick McLoughlin and Seán Joyce have the bragging rights on those stories! He spent many a fishing trip with Toby Gibbons, John Campbell, Paul Taylor and ‘the one that got away’! Coff also loved reading, anything from Tolkien down! He enjoyed poetry and revelled in ‘He Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven’ by WB Yeats.
More than anything, Coff’s love for Anne, his wife of fifty years, and his family was legendary. Coff was the quintessential family man. The ‘courting couple holding hands’ never stopped. He and Anne were inseparable. Coff never shied away from expressing his love for his wife and family.
He was a man of deep faith and loved his beloved St Mary’s Church. Here he served as a bandana-clad sculptor during church renovations and later, as a Minister of the Eucharist. That faith was tested with his first illness 20 years ago. Yet, Anne and their family of one daughter and two sons (Michelle, Brian and Ian) gathered round. Alongside medical professionals was a team of loyal carers in later years. Sneaking in Coff’s favourite ice cream became an art form and he enjoyed every one of them!
John Coffey will be sorely missed, most especially by his family, but also his relatives, neighbours and friends. He was a colossal Covie, who enriched the lives of so many people. May his memory be a blessing. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam uasal.