The untimely death of Anne Smyth (nee McEvoy) Ballytegan, Portlaoise and formerly of Stradbally caused widespread sadness over a wide area.
Anne was a patient in Tullamore Hospital over the past two years and, despite the best efforts of the staff of the Oncology unit, Anne lost her battle for life on Wednesday, November 9th surrounded by her adoring family.
Anne grew up in Stradbally and her father instilled in her a love of sport because, for many years, he served as Secretary of Laois juvenile Board. Being part of a family of ten, Anne was always full of life and, when she married Joe Smyth, the son of Joe the sandman, she soon settled into life in Ballytegan. The couple were blessed with a son and two daughters.
Her children were immersed in sport and Anne was always on hand to ferry them to training and matches and, in his glowing tribute to his mother, Brian told of how no matter how occupied Mom was she always ensured he was at a venue well before throw in. Brian made the Laois minor teams in both codes and Anne knew her late father would have been proud of his grandson.
In recent years despite her illness Anne seldom missed a game Brian was involved in and she took fierce pride in his rise to stardom as part of the Portlaoise senior football and hurling teams. All the while she knew her illness would eventually curtail her activities but, only earlier this year, she made the trip to participate in a walk in a remote part of Spain.
However, despite her confidence and good humour deep down she knew it might be her last trip abroad and so it happened. The Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise was a great outlet for Anne and she attended every week.
The week of the County final there was naturally great banter between the family in Stradbally and Portlaoise. Darragh, Anne’s nephew, had returned to the Stradbally panel and had she been in better form she would have enjoyed the debate but by now her health had deteriorated. However, she tried to be strong for the family, especially Brian, as she knew it was a big occasion for him.
On the day she was adamant she would attend and she did but know it would be the last time she would watch her native place do battle with her adopted Parish. Twenty-two days later Anne passed away.
The family were devastated although they were prepared and, even in her final days, Anne's only concern was for her family and their wellbeing. As Brian would remark at her funeral “Mom's motto was the family that pray together stay together.”
As the cortege made its way to SS Peter and Paul's Church Portlaoise, Portlaoise GAA club formed a guard of honour and members of the Stradbally team joined them in a show of solidarity.
Fr Paddy Byrne was chief celebrant and he was joined by Fr George, Fr Eddie Lalor, Monsignor John Byrne PP and Fr Tom O’Connor.
Fr Paddy spoke of a wonderful young woman who always put her children first but at the same time never forgot her Stradbally roots and brothers and sisters. The Church was packed to capacity as Stradbally and Portlaoise were united in grief. People from all walks of life came to say farewell to a loving daughter, wife and mother who departed this world far too early. The choir captured the moments with some of Anne’s favourite music.
After Mass, Anne was interred in the adjoining cemetery. Chief mourners are her husband Joe, daughters Gemma and Joanne, son Brian, brothers John, Coleman, Liam, PJ and Brendan, sisters Del, Katherine, Margaret and Una. nephews, nieces, brothers-in-law, extended family and a huge circle of friends in Portlaoise and Stradbally.
The Month's Mind Mass for Anne Smyth will be celebrated in SS Peter and Pauls church, Portlaoise on Saturday, December 10 at 6-30pm
By Pat Delaney