Tuesday 16 January 2018

Poignant farewell to 'true gentleman' Gary

Templeboy at a standstill for huge funeral

The wife of the late Gary Feeney, Kelly Melvin (in white) walks behind Gary’s coffin last Saturday.
The wife of the late Gary Feeney, Kelly Melvin (in white) walks behind Gary’s coffin last Saturday.

Harry Keaney

Engines revved. Horns hooted. Irish and American flags fluttered in the West Sligo wind.

In solemn Guard of Honour stood St Farnan's GAA Club members in shoulder-to-shoulder solidarity.

With these, the sights and sounds of young Gary Feeney's life, they brought him to his final resting place last Saturday afternoon.

From outside Templeboy Church, his cortege was led by an artic lorry cab, a truck, six motor bikes, seven rally cars, and two flag-bearers holding aloft the Irish tricolour and the US Stars and Stripes.

Outside nearby St. Joseph's Cemetery, the trucks gave one last almighty rev, a final farewell with a difference.

Then silence.

Overlooking the wild Atlantic, they took his body in an American-style casket and reverently laid the 24-year-old to rest.

If Templeboy is one side, next parish the far side of the ocean is Boston.

It's that so-Irish of American cities to which Gary, like countless others, had taken the plane to seek work.

Killed in a construction accident in New York State, he leaves behind his recently married wife, Kelly Melvin, of Bonniconlon; parents Fergus and Norma, sisters Orla and Andrea, and brothers Stephen and Owen.

And a huge extended family.

During funeral Mass, chief concelebrant Fr John Judge remembered Gary for his lovely personality, his wave, his pleasant smile.

Gary was, Fr Judge said, one who was "very special and very precious".

He described him as a lovely young person: pleasant, good natured, outgoing, one for whom loyalty was a hallmark.

"I can honestly say that Gary personified everything that was good about the young people of this area," Fr Judge said.

Despite the heart-wrenching sorrow, the priest brought a smile to those in the overflow congregation.

It was when he recalled Gary's "great love of motor sport, powerful cars, fast cars".

The former Templeboy PP recalled: "I wasn't long here until I could know who was passing by my house in the car going for Dromore. You'd hear plenty of noise and sounds. You could hear them, I think, all the way back as far as Dromore village."

Among the gifts brought to the altar were a Lego truck, a hard hat and a steering wheel.

Soloist Kieran Friel sang Tracey Chapman's 'Fast Car', accompanied by musicians Danny McCarron, Kieran Rooskey, Shane Devlin and Johnny Towey.

Particularly poignant was their rendition of the waltz, 'My Old Sligo Home'.

At the end of the Mass, Gary's brother, Owen, read out messages from friends in Boston. One said:

"Gary, I went to school with you.

"I looked up to you.

"I drank with you.

"I got drunk with you.

"I fell out with you.

"I came out to Boston to you and you took me in and looked after me.

"You're a true gentleman.

"One of a kind."

And in a tribute to Kelly, Gary's brother Stephen said her strength to keep her head up and "keep the rest of us going" was something Gary would be proud of.

He described her as Gary's "Boston beauty, his Boston rose, his strength from Bonniconlon."

Then, Stephen bid "goodbye" to one who was his brother – but more importantly, he said, one who was his friend.

And with that, the entire congregation erupted in applause.

Sligo Champion

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