Josephine, front left of picture, with her brothers and sisters - Donie, Timmy, Chris, Michael, Ann and Kate
“Vivacious”, “generous”, “talented”, “family orientated”, “interested in everyone” were just some of the words spoken about Josephine O’Connell who died suddenly on July 24.
Born at No 5 North Main Street to Mary and Christy Conway, Josephine was christened, and celebrated every major event in her life, at Our Lady’s and St David’s Church, just a few hundred yards from the home of her birth.
And last week, the community turned out en masse to bid farewell to this much loved daughter of Naas. Queues of people lined the canal and up to the main road from Josephine’s residence on Friday evening and again on Saturday morning for her final journey to St Corban’s where she was laid to rest.
Her sudden death was devastating for her family: husband Brendan and children Patricia, John, Suzanne and Vanessa.
Aged 73, Josephine appeared to enjoy good health. She loved dancing and golf, and cycled to early mass every morning. She was an avid bridge player, a member of several book clubs, and was always a great supporter of Naas Tennis Club.
She also loved singing and participated in the Big C and the Naas Parish Church choirs Naas, Millennium choir Blessington and Il Coro Italiano di Dublino choir Dublin, and, often with husband Brendan she loved acting with the Moat, Clane Musical Society, Prosperous Drama Society and elsewhere.
Josephine met Brendan in 1970 in London, when he was doing summer work and busking with his friends at Speaker Corner in Hyde Park. The story goes that Brendan actually asked her to marry him that first day they met!
Later they were both working in New York and met again, and from there, their romance blossomed. After they married and set up home in North Great George’s Street, Josephine opened a Montessori school there which she ran for many years. Amongst her pupils was a son of Sinead O’Connor.
When they moved to Leinster Grove in Osberstown (known locally as Odlum’s House), she established a second Montessori school there too. The house was sympathetically restored and refurnished by Josephine and Brendan; an architect. As well as being a trained Montessori School teacher, Josephine was a qualified speech and drama teacher and gained diplomas in Guidance Counseling, Executive Coaching and Conflict Resolution.
“Josephine was tenacious,” said her brother Timmy. ” Nothing was beyond her capabilities, she would find a solution to every problem and she took a huge interest in the wider family.
“Parties hosted by Josephine and Brendan were legendary!” added Timmy. “They both loved to act, to sing and dance; and at house parties they were always likely to perform A couple of Swells, or a Percy French poem, or Josephine would assume the character of Lady Bracknell from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. She was great fun, lively and always so entertaining.
“Josephine adored her children and grandchildren and was always so animated when with them, I can only imagine their sense of loss” added Timmy.
Her son John stated: “I will remember my Mum as a gentle soul with a huge personality.
“Throughout my whole life she always embraced whatever I wanted to do. She nurtured a confidence, a curiosity and a belief that I could do anything I put my mind to. She will always be an inspiration for me”.
Vanessa too described her mother’s constant curiosity as a driving force in her upbringing as well as in Josephine’s grandchildren: “Mum was a woman full of energy and with such a zest for life... of her many wonderful traits, was her curiosity, adventurous nature, and love and gratitude for life.
“The curiosity Mum instilled in us was being instilled in her grandchildren Amber and Skye and it was a pleasure to watch this, like when she took a leaf from a tree and slowly examined its shape and veins. I will treasure the memories of dinner parties with my friends where I was so proud to have mum and dad there as part of the gang leading the sing songs and story telling.”
Suzanne too wrote of her parents support, of their encouragement to see their children work hard, to follow their curiosity – but making sure to have fun and enjoy life on the way!
“Thank you, Mum for the endless interest in the details of my life, always knowing exactly what I was working on, updating your diary with the names of our projects. Your pride in us gave me confidence to try new things. You would have laminated each of us if you could!”
Finally, Patricia described her mother as a ‘force of nature’. “They say great things come in small packages; well, that was our Mum. I can remember our parents having us doing all sorts of extra curricular activities when we were growing up: swimming, dancing, piano, violin, hockey, drama, etc.
“Mum had such a curiosity for life and for living. Mum had a strong faith and now she has passed through the Pearly Gates with flying colours and is filling our Nana in on all the antics over the years”.
Josephine’s brother Timmy noted that despite her energy and participation in so many local activities and of course, her family, the late Josephine always found time to write thank you notes, and to acknowledge a kindness or a nice event, etc.
He added: “She was a true Naas girl, was our Josie. Being a born entertainer, I can still see her as a child, going up to Naas Garda Barracks with Supt O’Driscoll where she’d sit up on the front desk and sing to everyone — she was only about 6 years old then but she was a natural entertainer!”
With emotion, Timmy said Josephine would light up a room when she entered, she had such a great smile and brought such energy to everything she undertook.
“I have never seen as many people at a funeral before in Naas,” he said “And to see people lining the canal on the evening of her wake, all wanting to say goodbye to her, and to extend sympathies to Brendan and the family. Mourners all had positive stories to tell about Josephine, we will miss her so much.”
It was wonderful to see the guards of honour formed from Leinster Grove on the canal up to the church for her arrival Friday evening and again, on Saturday morning, from the church up to St Corban’s. Her brother Christy sang at the mass, and Fr Liam gave such a lovely tribute to her.
“Our little sister, the woman who overcame every obstacle and had a positive take on everything. Now she is laid to rest with mam and dad, and our stepfather, Will. God bless, Josephine, you’ve left a gaping hole in the family circle.”
Her husband Brendan is devastated and wonders how he will live without her, without having her support for the relocation project to North Great Georges Street.
The late Josephine O’Connell (nee Conway Behan), a true daughter of Naas, survived by her husband Brendan, children Patricia, John, Suzanne and Vanessa, siblings Donie, Timmy, Chris, Anne, Michael and Kate; grandchildren Skye, Amber and Ruby and her large family and circle of friends.
May she rest in peace, amen.
— Rose Barrett O’Donoghue