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Thursday 30 October 2014

Deeply religious man with a charming, resilient manner

Published 02/01/2013 | 09:48

The late John McKenna

1926-2012 John McKenna, St Brendan's Park, Tralee, a gentle man, passed away peacefully on December 17th 2012, aged 86. John slipped away in the presence of those he loved dearly, having led a wonderful life. His quiet, charming but resilient manner was a true inspiration to all who knew him.

John was born to parents Tom and 'Molly' (nee Kennedy) McKenna on September 17, 1926, one of five children (sisters Eileen and Mary, brothers Michael and Patrick).

He spent his early years in his beloved Lougher, Annascaul. Having enjoyed a happy childhood ' back Wesht', as he referred to his home, he moved to Tralee where in his late teens and early 20's he met some of his lifelong friends through his love of sport - football, badminton (in the CYMS), tennis, snooker to name a few. He was a keen follower of club football having played it himself, though his son and grandsons regularly complained that they had to answer to two managers whenever he attended their matches!

He was caught by the beauty and wit of Sheila O'Sullivan from Tullig, Killorglin – a nurse in St. Catherine's Hospital. Following their marriage on July 25, 1953, they moved to St Brendan's Park. Here they reared four children - Mary (who sadly passed away in 2011), Paudy, Seán and Anna. Many happy years were lived in the 'Park' and many stories of these times were a source of great warmth to him in his last days, in the company of great neighbours who visited him frequently.

John's full time working life started with a brief spell as a mechanic in Rice's Garage, Rock Street. In 1949, he commenced work in Tralee Urban District Council, where in 1954, he was upgraded to the position of Water Inspector. In 1979 he was promoted to Town Foreman, the position he held until his retirement in 1993.

He loved his work in the UDC. Together with the many interesting tales of serious work carried out, his characteristic smile was never far away whilst telling many amusing stories which, he rarely admitted to have instigated or taken part in! His knowledge of the town was vast and thus a great source of information.

For a number of years, he also took on the extra position of volunteer fireman, a role in which he took great pride in and which saw him central in the history of many memorable events in Tralee.

During the 70's, he worked parttime in the Post Office telephone exchange a number of evenings per week – again a job he greatly enjoyed. Some of his P.O. colleagues became lifelong friends who brought him great joy and comfort, particularly around the time of the passing of his wife Sheila in 1991.

Religion was central in his life. He often attended two Masses a day, his rosary beads rarely out of his hands. More importantly he lived his religion by helping those were most in need whom he met in his job in the Council, such stories having been related to the family on his passing . He was a proud member of The Dominican Third Order who graciously saw him on his way with his much loved rosary and prayers following his passing.

His humour was never far away - even in religion. He often remarked that he had to interchange his two daily masses - morning, evening between the 'Dom's' and the 'Parish', with a sprinkling of St Brendan's, so that the priests wouldn't think he was defecting!.

Three years ago, whilst on his way to mass in the 'Dom's', he fell and broke his hip. Whilst trying to wake him out of a coma following an operation, he opened one eye only after one priest declared that it wouldn't have happened if he had gone to the 'Parish'!.

That was quickly followed by rendition of one of his favourites - ' The Dingle Puck Goat'. Being a native Irish speaker John also entertained the nurses in the hospital with many Irish sayings in which he had a great love of.

His final days were spent in Cuil Didin nursing home where he received excellent care and attention and made many new friends. The kindness and professionalism of the staff, administered in a quiet dignified fashion, made it a true home from home for him. Their kindness to him will never be forgotten by his family.

John was a gentle man, who only saw beauty in his family, friends and the world around him. His respect and duty to the people of Tralee whom he served, was much appreciated and acknowledged by the large attendance at his funeral, led by a guard of honour by his ex UDC colleagues.

His passing has left a big void in the lives of sons Paudy and Sean, daughter Anna, brothers Michael and Patrick, sisters Eileen and Mary, grandchildren, great-grandchild, sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, brothers-in-law, sisters- in- law, nephews, nieces, relatives and friends.

He was laid to rest in Rath New Cemetery beside his dear wife and best friend, Sheila.

Ní críoch ach ath-fhás, I bPárrthas na nGrást, go rabhaimíd'

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