Friday 30 September 2016

‘Bruce Springsteen was like medicine to him’ – Sister of tragic Parkinson’s victim appeals for Boss tribute at Croke Park gigs

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 23/05/2016 | 11:40

Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook
Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook
Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook
Terri and Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook
Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney

The sister of a man who died from Parkinson’s disease has made an emotional appeal to Bruce Springsteen to pay tribute to him at his Dublin concerts.

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Terri Kenny Murphy had been looking forward to attending the rock star’s concert in Croke Park this Friday with her brother, Noel Kenny.

Noel, who had Down’s Syndrome, died earlier this year following complications from Parkinson’s disease.

“Back in 2010, he took part in the Special Olympics, and won a gold, bronze and silver in bocce. After that, we noticed that he was in decline, but we didn’t know exactly what was wrong with him,” Terri told Independent.ie.

Terri and Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook
Terri and Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook

“Then in 2011, Noel was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He’d been living with Parkinson’s for the last few years, and he became ill the day the Bruce Springsteen tickets went on sale.

“I bought them that morning, and he was admitted to Portlaoise Hospital that evening. It was a major shock to all the family.”

He was 44 years old when he died on February 28, just over two weeks later.

“Noel was a very outgoing, friendly person. He was an amazing young man, no matter what life threw at him, he smiled through it all,” Terri said of her beloved brother.

Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney
Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney

Born in Portarlington, Co Laois, Noel was the second youngest of 10 children, but Terri noted fondly that he was always the baby of the family and was nicknamed George by those close to him.

During the week, he attended a day service at Oak House Centre in Portarlington, but his sister recalled his love of parties and music.

“He loved meeting people, and he loved partying. His opening line when he was in female company was ‘hello I'm Noel, you’re gorgeous, are you married?’” Terri said with a laugh.

Springsteen was his favourite singer, and he had been to eight of the American music legend’s concerts, most recently in 2013.

Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook
Noel Kenny. Photo: Terri Kenny Murphy/Facebook

“The last concert we went to was in Limerick. Myself and my husband brought him in a wheelchair because he wasn’t able to walk very far.

“We went to the wheelchair accessible area, and it was funny because we got talking to other people who were there, but Noel was very subdued in his chair before the concert,” she recalled.

Terri continued: “But as soon as Bruce came on stage, he just jumped out of his chair.

“Bruce Springsteen was like medicine to him. Once he heard Bruce, he would come out of his quiet. He had his hands in the air and he just rocked.”

Last night, Terri shared a message on the Facebook event for the Boss’s upcoming show, appealing to the star to play Noel’s favourite song.

“This is my baby brother, he and I were to attend the Friday gig in Dublin. Noel became ill the same day as we purchased our tickets and he sadly passed away 28/02/16 age 44,” she wrote.

“His favourite song was ‘Glory Days’ would so love if Bruce would sing this, it would mean a lot.”

Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney
Bruce Springsteen, Pairc Ui Caoimh, Cork in 2013 Photo: Michael McSweeney

Since then, the post has garnered close to 10,000 likes, and Terri said she is “overwhelmed and flabbergasted” by the response.

Others have reached out to the rock'n'roll star on Twitter requesting a tribute.

“We had tickets for the wheelchair accessible area, and I decided to donate them to the Parkinson’s Association and they auctioned them off. I got a ticket then for the pitch, but I wasn’t going to go.

"After the response on Facebook, I’m blown away and I’m going to go.”

Next month, 10 members of Noel’s family will take part in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon to raise money for the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland.

“We have t-shirts printed with a picture of Noel and a different quote from him on the back of each t-shirt. He was a man with many words,” said Terri.

To contribute to the Kenny family’s fund, visit the Everyday Hero page here.

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