Tuesday 27 September 2016

'I still think he will walk in the door'- Grieving widow of Dad of the Year Chris who left behind seven kids

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 17/09/2016 | 10:33

Chris and Michelle Doyle pictured with their children in 2012 at their home in Portlaoise, Co. Laois.
Chris and Michelle Doyle pictured with their children in 2012 at their home in Portlaoise, Co. Laois.

A grieving widow said she is finding it hard to believe her husband has died, leaving her to cope alone with seven young children - including three sets of twins.

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Chris Doyle (37) received the title of Ireland's Dad of the Year in 2013 after he quit his job as a plumber to become a full-time carer for his son, who suffers from cerebral palsy, as well as being a hands-on dad for the couple's seven children.

Dubliner Chris died suddenly at the couple's home in Portlaoise on June 10.

Michelle Doyle (41) said: "I still expect to see Chris walking in the door."

The couple beat odds of 500,000-1 to have three sets of twins in the one family.

A fund-raising concert for the family featuring legendary Dublin band Bagatelle, who had a huge hit with Summer in Dublin, will be held at The Heritage Hotel in Portlaoise tonight.

Funds raised will be used to buy a nine-seater vehicle, specially adapted for the couple's disabled son, so that Michelle and the children can travel together as a family.

"I'm very grateful to the organisers of the concert," Michelle said. "It would be a great help if we could go places as a family. I can't bring the children places together because our car is too small for them all. It would be nice not having to rely on other people so much."

Tragedy struck when a shocked Michelle found Chris dead in bed one morning. However, she has nothing but praise for her neighbours for their kindness ever since.

"I've got brilliant neighbours and friends who help me with the children," she said.

"They've helped with the school runs and so many other things over the past few months.

"I miss Chris so much. Some days are harder than others. I find it all very hard, but the kids keep me going. They keep me on my toes constantly."

Twins Adam and Anthony (7) are the eldest, then Andrew (6). Twins Luke and Lillian (5) are next, and then twins Ollie and Olivia (4).

Chris is also missed by two children from a previous relationship, Alana Maxwell-Doyle (17) and Dylan Maxwell-Doyle (9).

Chris and Michelle's relationship blossomed online when they met through an internet chatroom.

Michelle moved from England to be with Chris, and she also has three children from a previous relationship - the eldest of whom is 19.

Chris died unexpectedly just weeks before the couple were due to renew their wedding vows.

He was acknowledged as a brilliant dad and had devoted all his time to the children's care and well-being.

"At night time, when the house gets very quiet, I miss him the most," Michelle said.

"I hear every noise. I even miss the sound of him snoring. It can get so quiet it feels eerie.

"I don't think his death has really sunk in yet. I keep thinking he'll be walking back in the door.

"I don't really plan anything anymore since he died. Plans go wrong."

Michelle added that she also appreciates the help she receives from the family's relatives.

The fundraising has helped to give her hope as she tackles the costs of raising seven children under seven years of age. Next year, extra costs for the family will include the First Communion for Adam and Anthony.

Donations can be made in any Bank of Ireland branch or online using the IBAN number IE17BOFI90188882269627.

Other fundraising activities included a concert in Kavanagh's pub in Portlaoise in July.

A number of quizzes have also been organised.

Tickets for tonight's concert, costing €25, are available at the hotel and at the door tonight.

A fundraising letter issued during the summer stated: "Chris did as every loving dad does - he kissed sore knees, sat up with them when they were sick, played and laughed, and helped his children navigate life's difficulties."

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