County Limerick lady turns 100 and her sister isn’t far behind her

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

Mary O’Connell celebrated her 100th birthday with her loving family in St Anthony’s Nursing Home, Pallasgreen

Mary O’Connell celebrated her 100th birthday with her loving family in St Anthony’s Nursing Home, Pallasgreen

THE O’CONNELL family celebrated the 100th birthday of their beloved mother and President Michael D Higgins may not be finished with the family just yet.

Mary O’Connell, originally from Lacknagoney, Doon, celebrated the momentous milestone with family and friends in St Anthony’s Nursing Home in Pallasgreen.

Mary is well able to communicate and despite not being one for fuss she knew that she was the centre of attention. One of her five children, Kate welcomed everyone to the very special occasion of their dear mother’s 100th birthday.

“Mammy was born in 1918 to Catherine and Timothy Whelan. There were six siblings, only one of which is alive today auntie Kathy. She is just one and a half years younger than my mother.

“From this I would deduce that maybe Michael D is not finished with this family just yet. God willing we may have another attempt at a hundredth celebration,” said Kate.

At only 23, Mary lost her mum who was just 49. She reared her own siblings and worked very hard on the family farm in Doon.

After marrying John in 1950 they settled in Castlegarde, Cappamore, where they had five children - Kate, Michael, Timmy, Sean and Marie. Mary now has six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

“Thanks to both our parents we grew up in a very happy home. We are very proud as a family to realise this most magnificent day. Mammy is and always was a woman of deep faith,” said Kate. That faith was tested in 1988 when Mary needed heart surgery.

“It was the most pivotal moment in our mother’s entire life. It was a matter of life and death. As a family we can never forget the courage and determination it took to face this daunting surgery. The faith she showed in God at this crossroads in her life was truly remarkable. Thanks to the brilliance of the Mater Hospital she has survived to tell the tale.” Never smoking and only the very rare drop of alcohol passing her lips has also helped her to this great age.

Kate said Mary instilled in her and her brothers and sisters an integrity, honesty and truthfulness that they will remember for the rest of their lives. There was never any codding going on when Mrs O’Connell was around!

“Mammy’s shrewdness meant we could never fool her and to this day that characteristic stands. She always stood her ground for the truth. Bless her, she is a very humble woman who shared the best of herself to bring the best out in others.

“As a family we will always be eternally grateful for her example.

“This day has come as a big shock to our mother as she never expected to live this long. Obviously God had other plans for her. Mammy never made herself the centre of attention but I must say centre stage is the only place for her today. After all these years she deserves every ounce of love and care,” said Kate.

Mary is much-loved in St Anthony’s where she was asked to cut the ribbon at the opening of their sensory garden last summer as part of her 100th year celebrations. Kate said she and her family are so grateful for the care and love given to their mother in the nursing home.

“To all members of staff - management, nurses, carers, catering and last but not least cleaning staff - we are eternally grateful. St Anthony’s is all about teamwork. This attitude has certainly played a huge part in our mother’s most senior years. A big thank you to all.” Kate said no words will ever be able to explain their love for and gratitude to their wonderful mother.

Sean Fennessy, director of nursing in St Anthony’s, said he has got to know Mary and her family very well since she came to live with them five years ago.

“It is an honour for all of us to care for Mary and welcome her family on their many visits each week. Mary is a great character and enjoys a laugh and fun with all the staff. I would like to take this opportunity to again wish Mary a very happy birthday and best wishes for 2019 from everyone here at St Anthony's Nursing Home,” said Sean.