Family tributes to Olive O'Keefe

Olive with her niece Marian

Olive with her niece Marian

Julia Forsythe writes: My first cousin Olive died in Cork City, Ireland on the 23rd January 2018 at the age of 62. She was born with Down's Syndrome. Her mother Lil, my Aunt whose maiden name was O'Connor and hailed from the Northside of the City, was the youngest of seven girls. My own mother Hannah was the second eldest and died young leaving four girls and one boy. As we grew up Lil was like a big sister to us and we were very close and that closeness continued with Olive who was educated and a great letter writer. I treasure the dozens of letters she wrote to me here in England.

About 18 years ago Lil died but before her death she had Olive settled in a home run by the Sisters of Charity in Cork City. It was a beautiful centre with a lovely garden and when I came to Cork with my family we would visit Olive. My brother-in-law Ted who was a great musician would play and sing to her and we had some great times with Olive and her friends, the other girls who were residents in the home, and occasionally with members of staff. Over the years my nieces Siobhan and Marian visited Olive constantly and Olive lived a full and happy life.

Her funeral was a joyful celebration held in the North Cathedral on the 26th January. The previous evening at the O'Connor Funeral Home in Shandon Street, Sr Angela from the North Presentation Convent nearby, led a lovely praying of the Rosary with a crowd of family and friends. The Buckleys, Riordans, and Donovans, all descended from the O'Connor girls, came together to remember Olive. The next morning the church was full and my brother Fr John Buckley said a wonderful Mass. The girls from St Vincent's, who were missing Olive terribly, brought to the Altar, gifts in thanksgiving for her life. Among them was a frame with photos, a cake to celebrate her love of living and a statue of Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, who Olive had a great devotion to. Fr John in his eulogy reminded us that Olive was the personification of love, and that was her greatness. He said when they met she would say to him 'John I love you' and he would answer 'I love you too' and she would say 'I know you do'. Most of us had that privileged experience too.

As the Mass ended her friends from St Vincents Centre walked on either side of Olive's coffin and wheeled it down the beautiful aisle of the Cathedral, a rare moment to witness.

Our celebration ended at St Vincents Centre with friends, cousins and many family members. We had a sing-song, Ted singing The Banks of my own Lovely Lee, Olive's young cousin danced a reel and another cousin played an Irish tune The Dawning of the Day on the whistle. On the ship returning to England, I thought with sadness that Olive's death marked the end of an era for us but we were so blessed to have known her. A writer's words came to mind 'A Life is not measured by achievement but in the number of lives touched.' We were blessed to have known Olive 'RIP' who certainly was gifted with that magic touch too.

Olive's niece, Marian Williamson gave the following Euology at the funeral

Olive was born on 8th November 1956 to Elizabeth O'Connor and Ted O'Keefe of Blarney Street, where they lived all of their lives. Lil met Ted when he returned from Australia, they married in this church, and soon afterwards, Olive was born. After Ted's unexpected and sudden death, Lil was left to be a wonderful mother to Olive and through those years, Olive grew into a beautiful loving person who we've all come to know. Her ability to love and to be loved is legendary. We can all verify that.

Following her mothe'rs death in 1999, Olive entered St Vincents and as they say the rest is history. Olive blossomed beyond all expectations and this is due to the exceptional care she received there. I would like to thank each and every member of staff past and present. I would personally like to thank Breda Lynch who from the very beginning of Olive's stay in St Vincent's was a key influence on how well Olive developed in life.

To all the ladies who live in the centre - you were her true friends. I know you will all miss Olive dearly, but she will always be in your hearts. A special thanks to Mary Gaffney, Olive's closest companion down through the years.

I would like to acknowledge the work of her GP Dr Colm Gleeson and the Marymount home care team who supported the nursing staff at the centre in recent weeks.

I would like to thank Fr John and Julia for their support over the years and for travelling from the UK at short notice to be with us today.

Over the last few years, Olives health began to deteriorate. Many a call Siobhan and I received from the staff saying she was being transferred to hospital, however, she always bounced back. We would arrive wondering what was going to face us and inevitably it was a big smile and a hug from Olive. We can attribute that to the loving care she had received from all at St Vincents.

Affectionate, jolly, happy, kind, generous and funny are all words we associate with Olive. Her enduring quality was her ability to share her love freely with everyone she met

I will end with her constant refrain - "I love you with all my heart" Lord, Thank you for the gift of Olive.

Tags: Obituary, Down's Syndrome, Olive O'Keefe

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