Kerry woman Aileen Kennelly leaves an incredible legacy of kindness – ‘What she did for Tralee is unbelievable’

The late Aileen Kennelly devoted much of her life to helping the poor through her work with Tralee St Vincent de Paul and Tralee Meals on Wheels.

The late Aileen Kennelly.

Stephen FernaneKerryman

Tralee lost one of its foremost workers for disadvantaged people in society with the sad passing of Aileen Kennelly.

Described as a ‘kind and thoughtful’ person by those who worked alongside her, Aileen leaves behind a proud legacy in her work with Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP) and Tralee Meals on Wheels.

Many warm tributes were paid to Aileen and to her late husband, Emmet, as together the couple did immense work for charity.

In the late 1960s – sensing the desperate need there was to provide a hot meal for people in difficult circumstances – Aileen helped found Tralee Meals on Wheels, located at Ozanam House since 1970.

Aileen (nee McCarthy) married into the well-known Kennelly family from Castle Street. Aside from her charity work, Aileen was a member of Kerry Choral Union where she met many friends during their concerts at home and abroad.

In later years, Aileen and Emmet lived at Staughton's Row, which was directly across from where Ozanam House stands – the place where the couple invested much energy in helping people over the years.

Ozanam House closed in December 2022 as the service is moving to a new building in Tralee. The idea had been to invite Aileen to the official opening but sadly time did not allow for this. Aileen served as treasurer of Tralee Meals on Wheels from 1970 until 2015 when Paddy Kevane took over the role.

“She was an absolutely lovely lady. She, and her husband Emmet, trained me in the role as treasurer with Saint Vincent de Paul and Tralee Meals on Wheels. They were lovely people, the old stock of Tralee,” said Paddy, President of Tralee & West Kerry SVP.

Mr Kevane said the level of work Aileen and Emmet did in their lifetime was ‘immense and far-reaching’ for the SVP organisation in Tralee. Moreover, Aileen was by Emmet’s side when setting up a holiday home called ‘The Towers’ in Ballybunion for people with physical and intellectual disabilities so families could holiday in Kerry.

“The work they did for Tralee is unbelievable. Their legacy in the Society [SVP] is incredible, even today we are still discovering acts of kindness and designs that they put in place all those years ago,” he said.

"She always did the Christmas Day dinner, often doing so quietly. She was a fantastic lady. We were blessed to have had her as she always wore a smile. If ever a couple were well matched, it was Aileen and Emmet,” Mr Kevane said.

Another stalwart of SVP for many years is Christy Lynch. Now retired, Christy worked alongside Aileen and Emmet in the early years helping to get SVP up and running in the town.

“It’s awfully sad news. Aileen was a lovely person and she and Emmet were personal friends of mine. They were the face of SVP. They were great people who did terrific work. Anything Aileen did for SVP was a success, she was a lady and was always very devoted to her work,” he said.