The late Jason Corbett
JASON Corbett was a father, a son, a brother, a husband, a friend, "a gentle giant" to those who knew him.
He loved Limerick, and rugby and golf, and all his friends in the city, and had always vowed to return to his native soil.
For him, the American dream was never to be. It was never his wish.
Born just 15 minutes after his twin brother Wayne on February 12, 1976, he was the beloved youngest child in a family of eight.
Growing up in a loving home to Rita and John, now aged 81 and 78 respectively, in Colbert Park in Janesboro, his beginning in life was in stark contrast to the brutal end he met – thousands of miles away from home, where he always hoped to return.
“He was a loving brother and friend to all of us,” said Wayne, who has worked in the same plant in Raheen since 2010, where Jason previously worked before he made the fateful move to the United States.
Jason worked “his way from the bottom up” in Multi-Packaging Solutions for about 15 years in Limerick, before transferring to its plant in Lexington in North Carolina – and served as a popular colleague in both plants.
A plaque erected outside the plant on the second anniversary of his death last week was draped with an Irish flag. It was etched with the words: 'Conas ata tu?', a nod to Jason's love of Irish, which he tried to impart to his US colleagues.
“He believed in people and believed in supporting people,” said his sister Tracey Lynch, now guardian to his two children, alongside her husband David.
“He was a great leader. He was inspiring. He really took time with people and empathised with people’s personal experiences. I suppose his own losses in life really gave him a better understanding of human nature.”
The twin brothers both attended St Ciaran’s national school in Galvone, and later St Enda’s secondary school, before Jason went on to undertake a number of business management courses.
Life was practically “idyllic” for a time, said Wayne, as Jason had met “his soul mate and love of his life”, Mags Fitzpatrick from Pallaskenry in the 1990s.
They married in Star of the Sea church in Quilty, county Clare, close to their favourite bolthole away from the rest of the world, in Spanish Point.
Mags owned a creche in Raheen, they bought a small home on the outskirts of the city, and "life was complete" with the arrival of a son, Jack, in 2004, and a daughter, Sarah, two years later.
“When he met Mags, everyone knew that was it. It was love,” said their sister Tracey.
“Then tragedy struck,” added Wayne.
She tragically died suddenly from an asthma attack in 2006, when Sarah was just three months old.
Years on, the Fitzpatrick and Corbett families remain indelibly close, standing side by side and shoulder to shoulder in St John’s Cathedral this Tuesday night as a special Mass was held in Jason’s memory, in a powerful display of solidarity with families now separated on both sides of the Atlantic.
Marian Fitzpatrick, Mags’ mother, said Jason was a “gentle giant.”
“He was so thoughtful. He paid for us to go to the US to visit them. He came home one Christmas to surprise us. He loved his family so much. He was a really good man. He worked hard and did everything he could for his family.”
He met Molly Martens, a former model from Knoxville, Tennessee, his future second wife, when she moved to Limerick to work as an au pair for his two children.
But it was always his intention to come home to Limerick with his children, especially around the time his son Jack was due to start secondary school.
“Every time he had a chance he'd come back. It was always his intention to come back to Ireland,” said Wayne.
Tracey said on one of his last occasions home he spoke of his desire to open a Dominos in Spanish Point, which caused her to laugh, and admit it may not have been one of his brightest ideas.
“He left Limerick but his heart never left it, and he always wanted to raise the children in Ireland.”
The family regularly return to Spanish Point, where they once found difficult to visit in the immediate aftermath of his death in the early hours of Sunday, August 2, 2015.
Since then, they have released balloons and lanterns into the air from the beach in his memory.
His son Jack, 13, said his father was always cheering him on in sports, school and life.
Now, both he and Sarah have had to grow up much, much faster than they should have, after the tragic death of their mother, and a father, who was "not just murdered, but slaughtered".
“I don’t have that from him anymore,” said Jack. “He won’t be there for me when I get married or have kids. He will miss everything.”
“I can’t ever go to a movie or pass a ball without feeling bad because that’s what me and my dad did."
“We are seen as the family of the Irish man who was murdered by Molly Martens, who is so bad,” he said.
Fr Noel Kirwan, of St John’s parish, who recently presided over the First Holy Communion of Mr Corbett’s daughter Sarah, said their supporters “would carry them in their hearts” at this difficult time.
“We know their hearts are being ripped through. We know this has been painful for them. We know that this has brought darkness upon them, and that they have cried out to God, asking ‘Will this ever end?’
“We pray that this storm will pass.”