Monday 23 September 2019

Tragic couple who lost their lives in US road crash are 'together forever'

Devoted: The late Caitlin Holtzman and JohnJohn Heneghan married in Ballintubber Abbey in
Devoted: The late Caitlin Holtzman and JohnJohn Heneghan married in Ballintubber Abbey in 2015 Newsdesk Newsdesk

The sister of an Irishman and his American wife killed in a road crash in the US says their love story has come to a heartbreaking end but they are "together forever".

Hundreds of mourners attended a memorial Mass celebrating the lives of JohnJohn Heneghan (33), from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo, and Caitlin Holtzman (32), from Pennsylvania, in Mr Heneghan's native parish.

The couple died after a suspected drunk driver collided with their car as they drove to a friend's wedding near Albany, in New York, on May 25.

Three other people travelling with the couple survived the collision.

In her eulogy, Mr Heneghan's sister, Maire Ivanna O'Reilly, told mourners their late mother Mona gave JohnJohn a copy of 'The Alchemist' when he was a young boy, a short story about a shepherd who had a vivid dream that he would find treasure if he were to travel to foreign lands.

When his mother passed away from illness nine years ago, JohnJohn returned to the book to help "deal with his monumental loss" and he "knew that he needed change". He decided to take the chance and begin a new life and worked in agriculture before starting his career in construction in New York.

He "crossed paths" with his future wife Caitlin in the Tir na nÓg bar in New York on St Patrick's Day.

"Caitlin was JohnJohn's treasure, of that I am sure," she said.

"They were beautiful people in their own right but together they were really a beautiful couple.

"Their sparkling eyes, their bright smiles, their warmth, their love, their charisma. The energy they possessed and exuded became inextinguishable.

"How can it be that these two people… can now be gone from us? It just seems unbelievable.

"While it breaks our hearts to lose JohnJohn so unexpectedly, that he was living his dream, that he was happy, that he was in love and so deeply loved in return, that they are now together forever," she said, adding it was a "heartbreaking end" to their love story.

Ms O'Reilly thanked the couple for "the laughter, the craic, the company, the loyalty, the generosity, the friendship, and most of all, thank you for letting us be part of your story". She also thanked Caitlin's parents for "bringing into this world such a wonderful daughter.

"She was, and always will be, a gem."

She thanked Ms Holtzman's parents for allowing their only child's remains to be with her husband and promised them her family would take care of them forever in Tourmakeady.

"We promise that we will look after her now as well as you looked after JohnJohn."

Family and friends from across Ireland, the US and Austria attended the Mass yesterday in St Mary's Church in Tourmakeady.

Mourners were led by JohnJohn's father Tom, Caitlin's parents, Donald and Claudia Holtzman, and JohnJohn's siblings, Orla, Olga, Maire Ivanna and Michael, as well as members of both extended families.

The couple - who wed in Ballintubber Abbey in Co Mayo in 2015 - lived in Manhattan for a number of years before their deaths.

Caitlin owned her own media company, Mediablage, working with clients from around the world, while JohnJohn was a project manager for AECOM Tishman in New York.

Three memorial services for the couple have taken place among family and their many friends in Ms Holtzman's native Pennsylvania, as well as in New York and Chicago.

Yesterday's Mass was celebrated by Fr John Kenny, with eulogies by JohnJohn's sister Maire Ivanna as well as from Corey Salko, a close friend of JohnJohn and Caitlin. Fr Kenny told the Mass JohnJohn set off to the US eight years ago, asking him to bless his St Christopher medal first.

The pair kept in touch through social media, Fr Kenny said, and the community was greatly shocked and saddened when word reached them that the couple had lost their lives in such tragic circumstances.

The couple's remains will be interred during a private ceremony expected to take place today.

The Heneghan and Holtzman families have asked that donations be made to the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire in lieu of flowers.

Irish Independent

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