THE deaths of an elderly couple and their daughter in a fire was the second tragedy to hit the family – a nephew was killed in a blaze in New York three years ago.
Dessie McDonald (75), his wife, Patsy (77), and their daughter, Patricia (34), died when fire swept through their home near Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim, early on Saturday.
Another daughter, Joanne, home from New York, and her sister, Jennifer, wept as tributes were paid yesterday at the funeral at the Church of the Annunciation in Mullies.
Their cousin, Martin Joyce, spoke of the "dreadful grief" of the family following the deaths at the weekend, and the death of his own brother while serving with the Yonkers Fire Department in October 2009.
Patrick Joyce died after going into a burning building believing two women were trapped inside. A tenant of the building was jailed for 20 years last year for Mr Joyce's murder after admitting he started the fire.
"You can't imagine the grief we went through," said Martin Joyce, a New York City firefighter.
A third brother, Peter – Patrick's twin – is also a firefighter.
"I thought I had dealt with the most miserable moment in my life when Patrick died, then to get a phone call like I had last Saturday was beyond belief. Dessie and Patsy were like surrogate parents for us and Patricia was like a surrogate sister."
Mr Joyce told mourners that the support Joanne and Jennifer had received from people in Co Leitrim since the tragedy had helped them enormously.
Dessie, Patsy and Patricia had returned to live in recent years in the townland of Lisnabrack, near Manorhamilton, where Dessie was born, he said, adding: "We were very blessed to have them in our lives.
"The balance and love they brought to all of us will live on in the lives of Jennifer and Joanne and in the lives of all of us."
Fr John McMahon said: "Never in the long history of Mullies chapel have we experienced the pain and heartache which we have all witnessed these past few days."
Mr McDonald was laid to rest in Mullies cemetery while his wife and daughter were taken to Dublin for cremation.