Friday 21 October 2016

Cousins and best friends Ashley and Olivia come together for final time

Published 20/06/2015 | 20:43

Ashley Donohoe and Olivia Burke, cousins and best friends, came together for one final time this morning in the Church of St Joseph’s in the town of Catati, Sonoma County in California.

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A week ago they were students  enjoying their vacation and working enough to earn enough to fund the summer months  before Olivia would return to Dublin and Ashley would resume her studies  at college  in Sonoma .

They had the world at their feet.

Young, talented,  full of life , and enjoying their time together  there was not a cloud on their horizon.

The  cousins were taken from this life in that  terrible accident  at the Liberty Gardens  apartment complex  in Berkeley

A lone piper playing the haunting  “She Moved Through The Fair” and  "Tully's Lament" led the coffins  and the grieving families  into the packed church  for a Celebration Of  Life service.

Appropriately, an Irish man conducted  their funeral service.

Monsignor  Dan Whelton from Cork city,  the Vicar General  of Santa Rosa  Parish  welcomed the grieving  families,  George and Jackie Donohoe and Ashley’s  sister Amanda  and Paul  and Paula Burke  and their son Gavin.

Minister for the Disapora Jimmy Deenihan  and Anne Anderson, the Irish Ambassador  to Washington, represented the Government, and Kevin Byrne, Vice Consul for the Western US also attended the service.

Read more: Almost €230,000 is donated to help the victims of Berkeley tragedy  

Monsignor Whelton  was joined in  con-celebrating the Mass by a number of priests  including  Fr Brendan McBride  of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre , Fr Aidan  McAleenan from Oaklands.

Both priests  have been  counselling  and supporting  the injured and their families  throughout  this terrible  week.

Fr John McNerney, the Chaplain of UCD was also on the altar  as representative not only of his own college  but all the universities and colleges at which the dead and injured had been studying.

Monsignor Whelton  spoke  of the intense relationship and friendship enjoyed by  Ashley and Olivia.

He quoted friends of Ashley as saying he was a “ray of sunshine.”

He told how Ashley worked two jobs  to support herself and she was a talented soccer player  who also coached young people in the game.

He said Olivia’s brother Gavin  told him that his sister  was a “kind, caring person, fun loving  with a great smile.”

He said she was person who thought more about the other person than herself, and that she was diligent, but enjoyed the craic.

Monsignor Whelton  said that Olivia and Ashley  were not twins  but acted  as such with each other.

“They were very close to each other  and their families were very close too,” he said.

When they were very much younger  they used to dress alike  and try to fool their friends that they were twins.

Read more: Victims may remain in the States for weeks  

He indicated the depth  of their friendship  when he said  that on Olivia’s 18th birthday  Ashley showed up at the door  of the Burke family home  unannounced , having travelled all the way from California  to surprise her beloved cousin  in celebrating  that landmark  coming of age.

Monsignor Whelton said: “ Did death come too early? Absolutely, and out of  the natural order  and nature of things. But it has happened ,” he said.

He said that Ashley’s mother Jackie said after she received the tragic news  about the death of  the two young adults  she went to Berkeley. When she got to see the bodies  the two girls were holding each other “They were together in life and they were together in death too,” she had told the priest.

Their final separation came after the service  when Olivia’s body was returned to Berkeley for repatriation to her native Dublin tomorrow.

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