Tributes poured in during the week as former Garda Sergeant Frank Stafford Snr (85) of Main Street, Graiguenamanagh, was laid to rest on Thursday in Calvary Cemetery following a poignant funeral mass at Duiske Abbey.
Sadly, owing to the ongoing situation with Covid-19, Frank Snr was unable to get the large send-off befitting of a man of his stature within his local community, however, tributes have been pouring in for a man who was extremely well thought of both within An Garda Síochána and the community of Graig at large.
Frank Snr sadly lost his life in a house fire at his home in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He was in the bungalow with his daughter Aylishe, who cared for her father, when the blaze broke out around midnight. Emergency services from the village and nearby Thomastown were quick to arrive at the house, which is located near the garda station on the Main Street - a place where Frank was stationed most of his working life.
While sadly Frank lost his life in the fire, Aylishe was rushed to St Luke's Hospital where her injuries were said to be non life-threatening. The fire service remained at the scene for several hours and eventually extinguished the blaze at around 4 a.m.
A native of Newbay, Barntown in Wexford, Frank Snr was born to parents Johnny and Margaret Stafford and was the youngest of four children. A man who took great pride in his work, he embarked on his career with An Garda Síochána in 1959. It was an eventful couple of years, as in 1960, he married his childhood sweetheart Agnes and it was while at his first post in Bagenalstown that they started their family.
Frank moved on to Kilkenny next in his career and managed to climb to the rank of Sergeant at the young age of 26. Throughout his career, Frank was known as an exceptional garda and he was always approachable and helpful to those who needed him, serving the communities of Mooncoin, Ferrybank, Goresbridge, Glenmore and finally Graiguenamanagh where he became an important part of the community.
His keen eye, sharp mind and friendly manner set him apart and endeared him to all.
Frank and Agnes made many great friends throughout their lives together, gathering life-long friends wherever they lived.
As a youngster, Frank developed a great love of handball and was an accomplished player with the Talbot's Inch Handball Club in Kilkenny. Whilst in Goresbridge in 1977, he was chairman of the committee that oversaw the construction of the new handball alley there, something he was very proud of.
Another passion of Frank's was cars and it was a source of great pride that his cars were always kept 'highly polished'.
A lover of GAA, despite the rivalry with his adopted home county, Frank remained a dedicated Wexford supporter all his life. He enjoyed nothing more than joining in a trad session on his button accordion, with 'Slaney Valley' his renowned party piece.
In later years, Frank always kept himself informed about sport and current affairs the good old fashioned way, by reading the newspapers cover to cover, and he wasn't behind the door about sharing his opinions on what was going on either.
A real family man, Frank was a loving father to his six children and later became a loving grandfather to 15 grandchildren, by whom he'll be sorely missed.
There were plenty of tributes paid to Frank Snr throughout a week that's been filled with shock and sadness in Graiguenamanagh.
Not least in these was Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Andrew McGuinness, who expressed his sympathies to the family, particularly Frank Jr who works as a Senior Engineer with the council.
'I was deeply saddened when I heard the news myself and I want to extend my thoughts and prayer to the Stafford family on the tragic loss of Frank Snr and also to the wider community in Graiguenamanagh who are no doubt shocked and saddened by what has happened,' Cllr McGuinness said. 'It's heartbreaking to hear of something like this happening in a close knit community like Graiguenamanagh and I know Frank Stafford Jr and work with him on Kilkenny County Council. I know the family are very well respected and Frank Snr will be sadly missed.'
'As chairman of Kilkenny County Council, I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Frank Jr and the family and to the local community in Graiguenamanagh.'
Cllr McGuinness' comments were echoed by Cllr Peter 'Chap' Cleere, who described Frank as 'a real character'.
'I had many great chats with him, especially around the time of the local elections,' he said. 'He was well-respected, well-known and well-liked, as are all his family.'
'The people of Graiguenamanagh are hurting today. People are shocked and sad. The whole community is devastated. My thoughts and condolences are with his friends and family.'
Also among those recalling Frank during the week were Wexford's Superintendent Jim Doyle who described him as the model professional in the way he went about his work.
'I held him in the highest regard,' Supt Doyle said. 'He was a great family man and a great guard. He would have sworn me in when I joined the guards. He was a very decent, very sociable, hard-working man who was well thought of by the people of Graiguenamanagh. After his retirement, he used to come and visit me and we'd sit and talk about years gone by.'
Following a difficult week, Frank's family wished to thank all those who expressed their condolences and shared memories. In particular, they reserved words of admiration for the gardaí and fire service of Graiguenamanagh and Thomastown 'for their professionalism and compassion on that tragic night'. Thanks were also extended to the priests who oversaw a moving funeral service and the community at large who've really rallied around the Stafford family.
Frank was a loving husband to the late Agnes and the much loved father of John (Borris), Tony (Graig), Frank (Graig), Marie (Bennettsbridge), Aylishe (Graig) and Sharon (Graig). He is predeceased by his brother Sean and is sadly missed by his loving family, his 15 grandchildren, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, his sisters Nancy Scallon (Kilmore) and Betty Breen (Wexford), brother in law Frank, nephews, nieces, relatives and many friends gathered over the years.
'Your Life was a Blessing
Your Memory A Treasure
You are loved beyond Words.'
May he rest in peace.
New Ross Standard