THE WORDS of two devoted sons broke many hearts in a hushed Ardee Church.
As the final verses of the funeral service for popular Italian restaurant owner Mario Borza beckoned, Fr. Michael Murtagh had one final message to deliver.
It was a simple note from Mario's sons, Domo and Rocco.
'You were the strongest and our hero. We looked up to you all our lives. You lived free and now you are free. You were our father but our best friend and you will always be with us daddy.'
Earlier, a comment on behalf of Mario's friends in the Vikings Motorcycle Club, touched raw nerves too, their own website garnering 8,000 expressions of sympathy in a few days.
'He was the most loyal and honourable person you could ever meet. He loved his bike, but he loved his family more.'
Mario Borza (52) moved to Ardee in the early 1980s from Dublin. Married to Claire, they had two children who would become the centre of their lives.
Living in Dromin, he opened up Mario's and it became an institution to this day.
His sudden death, on November 4, was greeted with an outpouring of grief right across the community.
'Mario died too young, too quickly,' Fr. Murtagh stated. Like a lot of Italians who came here, he became 'more Irish than the Irish themselves', earning a reputation as a great slagger. If you managed to get the better of him, you'd probably become a friend for life.
'Mario became synonymous with Ardee and although his work was anti-social, late nights the norm, he built a family unit. When I called to anoint him I could see that deep bond,' he continued. ' You have to credit his part in the development of this town.'
Later, members of the Ardee Traders expressed their sympathy to the Borza family on the loss of a man who played a key role in life in Ardee for many decades.
Mario is survived by his wife Claire and sons, Domo and Rocco, his parents, Anna Regina and Rocco, siblings, Dominic and Joe, Marie and Daniella, and his loving little granddaughter Grace. Whenever he'd take on the task of pushing her in her buggy down Castle Street, he'd meet the customers who would slag him appropriately, but he didn't care, declaring proudly ' hey, isn't she gorgeous?'
Fittingly, Mario's colleagues in the Vikings Motorcycle Club, and other clubs such as the Devil's Disciples and the Freewheelers, gave him a rousing send off, meeting the funeral procession outside his premises on Irish Street for a short ceremony, burning rubber in his memory and then racing off 100 strong to form a guard of honour at the church.
It will live long in the memory as the day the magical sound of the road knights of Valhalla guided their fallen soldier home. 'Lo there do I see my Father Lo there do I see my Mother And my Sisters and my Brothers Lo do I see the line of my people Back to the beginning Lo they do call to me Bidding me to take my place among them In the Halls of Valhalla Where the great may live forever'.