Marie Chawke's sad adios to the Aghadoe Heights Hotel
A light went out in the Kingdom last Friday afternoon.
Marie Chawke left her position at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel and Spa in Killarney after 14 years running one of the country's most-loved hotels.
She quoted Eleanor Roosevelt to friends: "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."
Last September, property developer Jerry O'Reilly sold the hotel to a fund controlled by asset managers, Davy.
Davy Strategic Capital Investments paid just over €6m for the five-star hotel which boasts 74 bedrooms, 30 of them suites; two bars, a restaurant, a modern gym and a swimming pool that has panoramic views over the famous Killarney lakes. But regular guests at the popular hotel won't be greeted by the fragrant Marie, as they have been for many years.
Asked about the future, Marie said she had no immediate plans. "I have a few ideas, nothing concrete as of yet," she told me.
"Over the next few months I am going to have some 'me time' and check out some of the wonderful Irish hotels. I've never not worked since I was 17 years of age. I'm going to have time to see family and catch up with friends," she said.
She said that she was leaving with mixed emotions.
"I will miss my team dreadfully, but they will ensure that it is business as usual, and the upside is that you will no longer be required to listen to my stories."
She and her husband Pat live down the hill, in front of the hotel. "When there is a light on that shouldn't be on, I'd ring up and say, 'Knock off the lights in the penthouse!'"
"Everyone knows Marie is one of the most professional, talented, gracious hoteliers in the land," says broadcaster Grainne Seoige.
"She is also one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. I'm proud to call her my friend."
The Kerry bolt-hole has become a home from home for the stars of stage and screen, including US TV star Jimmy Fallon, Billy Connolly, actors Bill Murray and Harrison Ford, as well as Grainne Seoige, Miriam O'Callaghan, Ryan Tubridy and Lorraine Keane. Bertie Ahern, Mary Harney and former presidents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, have also enjoyed the landmark hotel.