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Priest pays warm tribute as funeral held for Armagh lady with ‘soft nature and good heart’

Sheelagh Vernon

An Armagh woman who died this week at a city nursing home has been remembered as a lady with “a soft nature and a good heart”.

Sheelagh Vernon passed away at Greenpark on Monday.

A private funeral was held prior to Requiem Mass being celebrated at St Malachy’s Church in Armagh on Wednesday night.

A few members of the heartbroken family were present but due to limited numbers in the current circumstances others – together with friends – watched and listened as a fitting tribute was paid during her Requiem Mass, which was being streamed via webcam.

After a beautiful rendition of ‘How Great Thou Art’ – sung by neice Fiona Gildea – sounded out around St Malachy’s Church, Fr Thomas McHugh said Sheelagh’s family would “miss her dearly”.

“Today as we pray for Sheelagh, we pray that Jesus can welcome her into Paradise,” he said.

“Sheelagh was the third of seven children to Charlie and Rose Vernon,” he said. ”

“She was a great help to her mother in the home, especially with a busy household. She never complained really and she had a soft nature and a good heart.

“She was at the top of her class at school with shorthand and typing at Armagh Technical College and she started her working life at Armagh’s retail destiny Quinn’s in Ogle Street, as their accountant, clerk and buyer.”

Fr McHugh said Sheelagh “loved all animals, but especially dogs”, and she got her first, a terrier, for her 21st birthday and “spoilt him rotten”.

He told mourners that she later moved to England in the late 70s and there she secured positions in two insurance firms over a period of about 30 years.

“As we would say she did very well for herself,” added Fr McHugh.

“And she always had a dog and one of them was seen to huff when the suitcase was produced. The dog just knew when the suitcase was produced that she was on one of her twice yearly trips back to her beloved Armagh.

“And during those summer trips she always would have maybe decorated a room or painted a fence or purchased some sort of time-saving gadget for her mother and father.”

He said Sheelagh was always happiest with her family and spoke of her generosity and love for them all.

Said Fr McHugh: “She never let a day go by without calling home, especially to her mother, when she was over in England, and it’s nice to think that they are united once again.”

He spoke of a real lady, who mad such an impression on many lives and coped with her own adversity.

“She was a strong independent lady,” said the celebrant. “She was sadly stricken by a rare condition but she never complained and accepted it always with grace and dignity.

“She returned to Armagh in 2008, lived in Constabulary House in Russell Street until she moved into Greenpark Nursing Home in March of 2017.

“And we read in the Psalms and it says ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

“And death is never easy and especially with the current restrictions, it’s difficult. But God reminds us in that Psalm that even in the time of darkness and especially with death that God is here with us.

“And we pray for Sheelagh and also for all of us who are left behind. And we ask God to help us at this time.

“We pray and we thank God too for the staff of Greenpark Nursing Home who looked after Sheelagh in her final days.”

Fr McHugh said Sheelagh was “much loved and cherished by her family who were devoted to her especially in her final years”.

“Her eyes always lit up when she saw them coming to visit,” he added.

Fr McHugh said that while Sheelagh will be sadly missed today “we will never forget her soul”.

“There’s a line from the Bible that I like a lot and it says ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, there’s nothing I shall want’. And it reminds me in life that when everything is stripped away all that we need is God,” he said.

“People these days always want to have more and more things but when all is said and done these material things can’t go with us to heaven when we die. The Bible quote reminds me that God is everything and our eternal home in heaven is everything.

“Heaven has everything that you could ever imagine or think of. Heaven has things that you can’t even buy, because they are the things of God, because heaven is a place of peace and happiness, of joy and love, a place where we get to be with our loved ones who have died.

“Heaven is that place where you just feel at home, safe and content. Heaven is that place where you just never want to leave once you get there.

“Today as we pray for Sheelagh, we pray that God welcomes her home to heaven, her prayer in life as she looked to God and said ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’. We pray that God looks back upon her today and says, ‘Sheelagh, you are my daughter, there’s nothing else that I want.”

The Requiem Mass ended on a poignant and perfect note with the words of comfort to be found in ‘Hail Queen of Heaven, The Ocean Star’.

“Faith of our Fathers: Mary’s prayers

“Shall win our country back to thee;

“And through the truth that comes from God,

“We shall prosper and be free.”

Sheelagh was predeceased by her beloved brother, Charlie, and is survived by sisters Rosemary, Teresa, Joan and Maura, brother Paul, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nephews, nieces, and a wider family circle and friends.

To each and all we offer our heartfelt condolences at this saddest of times.

May her gentle soul Rest in Peace.

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