The death has taken place of Seán McKenna at his home in 'Ard Rua' Newtown Road, Wexford.
Seán was born on February 17 1935 in Lathaoibh, Ballyferriter, County Kerry. He was the eldest son of the late Bridget and Patrick McKenna. He grew up with his sister Hannah and brothers Tom, Mike and Séamus. He walked to his primary school, one field away from the farmhouse. After sixth class he entered the Preparatory College, 'Coláiste Íosagáin' Ballyvourney, County Cork. From there he entered St. Patrick's College where he trained as a teacher.
In July 1954 at the age of 19 he was appointed Principal of St. Joseph's National School, Ballymitty. He took the bus from Wexford Town and requested the driver to drop him off at Main Street Wellington Bridge! He taught at Ballymitty for 46 years, the longest serving Principal in one single school in the history of the State. He retired from teaching in the year 2000 having taught three generations of children. He cycled to school in his early days when he resided in 'The General Providers' in Wellingtonbridge. His first car was a Volkswagen Beetle, registration number TIK 554. He was interested in all sports, especially Gaelic Football and when Kerry was playing he was in his element. In his home there are numerous photographs of his school teams taking part in Rackard League matches. His school pupils regularly competed in Community Games and Rounders competitions. Weekly trips to Wexford Swimming Pool were a highlight for many of his pupils.
He had a big interest in quizzes and he entered his pupils in many of them with great success. He had a flair for drawing and he often sketched historical scenes on the chalkboard to enhance his teaching. Every pupil leaving St. Joseph's NS had the history of Ireland, from the landing of the Normans at Bannow Bay in 1169 to the Easter Rising of 1916 drilled into their memory!
Being a native Irish speaker he imparted his love for the language to his pupils. During his summer holidays for many years he taught Irish in Coláiste na Mumhan, Ballingeary, Cork.
In 1969 he married Maura and they recently celebrated 47 years of marriage. His daughter Nessa was born in 1975 and his son Éanna in 1977. He cherished his children and encouraged them in all their endeavours. His granddaughter Sarah was his pride and joy and their loving relationship sustained him throughout his illness. He delighted in her achievements and he was happy to go for 'spins' with her even as a learner driver - continually praising her even when things got bumpy or the occasional stall!
Until his illness took over he was an avid reader - mainly Irish History. He attended book fairs and auctions throughout the country. Stamp collecting was another of his hobbies and 'First Day Covers' arrived from the GPO regularly.
His interest in sport never wavered and even in the final weeks of his life he followed the 'World Cup' and the 'Olympic Games' mostly on radio due to his failing eyesight. He was not at all impressed when Dublin beat Kerry in the All Ireland Football Semifinal!
Though Kerry was his home, he had great love and admiration for his adopted county of Wexford and its people.
In recent years he was diagnosed with PSP, a rare form of Parkinsons disease. This he bore without complaint and he never let it interfere with his life. His last big trip was a visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast in July. This he enjoyed greatly despite his rapidly deteriorating health and an obligatory visit to McDonalds was a feature of the outing.
He passed away peacefully on Thursday September 15 at 5.15pm. Seán will be greatly missed by his wife, children and grandchildren, his sister, brothers and extended family and friends. His funeral Mass was celebrated in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Rowe Street by his brother Fr Séamus with clergy from the Ferns and Kerry Dioceses. Séan was interred in Barntown Cemetary following his Requiem Mass. He is survived by his wife Maura, daughter Nessa, son Éanna and grandchildren Sarah and Emmanuel.
Séan's month mind Mass will take place at 6pm on October 15 in Rowe Street Church.