Monday 23 October 2017

Úna grew up in a large and loving household

The late Una Kavanagh.
The late Una Kavanagh.

THE sad death has taken place of well-known Úna Kathryn Kavanagh (née Blair), just a few weeks before what would have been the 45th anniversary of her wedding to her loving husband Frank.

Úna was born in Dublin on June 29, 1948, and grew up in a large, loving household with four sisters and two brothers, Domhnall, Ciarán, Deirdre, Fionnghuala, Róisín and Gráinne and parents Ciarán and Ro, on Moyne Road, Rathmines.

Úna particularly enjoyed her school days in Saint Louis National School, Rathmines, and then later as both a day-pupil and border in Loreto, St Stephen's Green, where she made life-long friends.

She was very sorry to miss their 50th reunion this June, which she had been instrumental in helping to organise and tracking down long-lost classmates. Úna excelled at sport, participating in and captaining various school and university netball and hockey teams. She studied a Bachelor of Commerce at University College Dublin, graduating in 1971.

In 1968, she met her future husband Frank at a dance in Courtown, where her family was on holiday. They fell in love and married in October 1971. The couple would have celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary on October 2. Úna moved to live with Frank in Wexford town, from where, she said, she never looked back. Úna loved her life in Wexford town.

She participated in all aspects of local life and made a great contribution to her local community, including the Church, as a lay representative on the WATCH Committee and as a Minister of the Word. When she arrived in Wexford, Úna was appointed as a teacher in the VEC, where she gained a great admiration for the young people she worked with.

She later worked in a variety of part-time education roles, including: secondary and adult education in the VEC and St. Peter's College, private tuition for adults and children, English as a foreign language, reading for adults, and more recently, with Fáilte Isteach, a volunteer community project to welcome migrants to Ireland with language classes. Personally, Úna was deeply fulfilled as a mother to a growing family.

Her eldest child Ronan was born in 1972, followed by Aideen, Sineád, Róisín, Frank and Niamh and she invested her time and energy in teaching and nurturing her children and enjoyed having the opportunity to be at home with them as they grew up.

During the 1980s, Úna was requested by the health board and county council to establish a community-based integrated preschool for Travellers, located in Taghmon, which operated for 26 years. Other community projects included sports clubs, particularly Wexford Gymnastics Club, school boards, social and parish organisations and she was a real advocate for breastfeeding - helping to establish the local La Leche League.

In 1984, she returned to work part-time for 10 years, teaching at the pre-school she loved, then full-time in 1995 as Manager of Ard Aoibhinn Services, a role which became one of the most fulfilling of her varied career.

Ard Aoibhinn was a new, specifically-designed state of the art voluntary service, amalgamating the existing St Clare's and St Michael's services, which would provide day and residential services for people of all ages with wide-ranging levels of developmental delay, intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries and other special needs. This job was very dear to Una's heart and all of the service users were very special to her.

In 1993, she returned to college at NUI Maynooth, travelling to attend night classes while working and raising a family, and in 1995, she was conferred with a H. Dip. In Adult and Community Education. In 2014, she was awarded a Certificate in Pastoral Theology from Carlow Institute of Technology Outreach Campus at St Peter's College, Wexford, and was signed up for the Diploma Course in 2016/17.

Úna was a real believer in 'life-long learning' and valued education as a teacher and a student and as a means for personal development. Language was another passion and she was delighted to dust off her Italian skills with the locals when she returned to Italy for a holiday with her daughters in October 2015 (having worked as an Au Pair in Italy in 1965 and receiving a Diploma in Italian from the Italian Institute in Dublin in 1966).

Her husband Frank and her family were her real loves and she took great pride in their achievements.

Úna's extended family were also very special to her and in more recent years, she spent a lot of time researching, recording and sharing the family history, and maintained great contact with family and old friends.

Family, friends and faith were of great importance to Úna as she tackled her illness head on since 2008, when she was first diagnosed with cancer, showing great courage, determination and perseverance.

She beat pancreatic cancer in 2008 and lung cancer in 2014 before receiving her final diagnosis of lung cancer in December 2015.

Úna was very proud to become a grandmother. Her eldest grandson, Connor, was born in 2002, to her son Ronan and daughter-in-law Hélène, followed by his brothers Ciarán and Brian. She adored her three grandsons.

Úna was extremely positive and practical about her cancer. Her reactions to bad news were always very pragmatic and focused on the best possible outcome. She will be deeply missed by her loving family. Her funeral mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Rowe Street, was celebrated by Fr Billy Swan.

Wexford People