DISBELIEF and a deep sense of shock and loss were the common denominators when word spread throughout West Limerick of the sudden death of Sheila O’Regan at her home in Ardagh on Thursday, April 22.
That a woman of Sheila’s vitality and energy had been so abruptly cut off from life left everyone reeling,
The shock waves of loss hit hardest at those closest to her: her husband, children, grandchildren, sisters and brothers and her many friends.
But Sheila’s warm and engaging personality and her distinctive voice had made her a welcome presence in homes throughout West Limerick through her weekly programmes with West Limerick102FM community radio. Now that voice was stilled and silent, leaving many listeners feeling they, too, had lost a friend.
Sheila grew up on the O’Toole farm at Killimor, outside Ballinasloe, Co Galway, the eldest of eleven and attended the local national school and St Raphael’s, Loughrea before beginning work in the library of An Foras Talúntais in Dublin.
There she met Willie O’Regan, who was to become her husband of 50 years. They set up home, first in Co Cork and Co Roscommon before settling in West Limerick and making their forever home in Ardagh with their three children, Brian, Emer and Cian.
Sheila quickly immersed herself in local life, and was an early supporter of Gaelscoil O’Dobhair as well as joining the Newcastle West Bridge Club. (She was president elect at the time of her death).
Later, Sheila became secretary of the Ardagh Voluntary Housing Association and a director of Limerick Voluntary Housing Support Services.
She served two terms on the board of West Limerick Resources and was also on the board of Local Link, where she was treasurer from 2007 to her death. She was a board member of West Limerick 102FM and of the Butterfly Club at the time of her death and was secretary of the Rathkeale Historical Society, a post she held for several years.
In addition, she was involved in organising events to mark International Women’s Day and was a frequent contributor at the Women in Media conferences in Ballybunion. She served on the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and had recently joined the organising committee of Éigse Michael Hartnett.
Throughout her life, Sheila was passionate about books, music, history, the arts generally, current affairs and people. And she revelled in the opportunity to become a mature student, earning an M.A. in local history.
Sheila loved people and their stories and her vital curiosity about the world at large never flagged.
Local radio provided the forum where all Sheila’s life-long interests could be brought into play and she proved herself the consummate professional, delivering programmes and documentaries with flair and style, with warmth and integrity.
She had a great gift for friendship and was a caring and lively friend, generous with her time, who loved nothing better than a long chat over a cup of tea or a glass of wine.
An avid reader, her membership of a book club was an important element in her life, an enthusiasm she also shared with family members and friends. She had a particular love of poetry and she and her sisters regularly swapped poems.
A keen supporter of local arts events, she was a smiling, discerning, elegant regular at concerts, readings, films, lectures, Eigse Michael Hartnett, Listowel Writers Week and UL Concert Hall.
Sheila loved discovering new places, whether a new coffee shop, a new writer or a new country and was an enthusiastic traveller.
She was also an enthusiastic and intuitive gardener and was generous in sharing her garden’s bounty with others.
Sheila O’Regan graced the lives of all those who knew and loved her. She was kind, compassionate, encouraging and generous, a woman of substance, principle and intelligence who believed in honesty and integrity, and who lived her life with verve and her own special élan. She was, indeed, in the words of poet Raymond Carver, “beloved in this world”.
In his funeral eulogy, Sheila’s son Cian said that service was the word that threaded together the many layers of Sheila’s life and he paid tribute to her for her many achievements and as wife, mother, grandmother, sister and friend.
Her sudden death has, to everyone’s dismay, cut short that life of service.
We can only remember, and be glad of, the many, many ways that her life touched ours for the better.
Sheila is mourned by her husband Willie, her children Brian, Emer and Cian, by her nine grandchildren, Conor and Ben, Aidan, Una, Kieran and Claire, Darcie, Daire and Laoise, by her sisters Frances, Catherine and Gráinne, her brothers Noel, Austin, Willie, Joe, Michael and Martin, daughters-in-law Annie and Danielle, son-in-law John Tomasko, nephews, nieces, other relatives, neighbours, friends and colleagues. She was predeceased by her much loved brother Brendan.
Her Requiem Mass in St Molua’s Church, Ardagh was followed by burial in the adjoining graveyard.
-written by Norma Prendiville
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