After an extraordinary life, so well lived for an astonishing 108 years, Michael J O’Connor was laid to rest in glorious Aghadoe this Friday afternoon, overlooking the town he was proud to call home for over four decades.
His passing, after an incredible life and a wonderful contribution to society, came just two months ahead of what would have been his 109th birthday and his fabulous last words to Killarney Parish Administrator, Fr Kieran O’Brien, who visited Michael on the eve of his death, were that he was happy and delighted.
Fr O’Brien, who celebrated the Requiem Mass for Michael in St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney this morning, wondered will we ever see his likes again?
“In one sense it’s hard to believe that he has died. Sure we thought he’d live forever,” he said.
“As we get older, we get shy about our age but for Michael every year was a bonus, every day was a blessing,” Fr O’Brien added.
He told the congregation that Michael could give an account of life as lived in 1913 and thereafter that would be better than any book that could ever be read, charting a life without electricity, a life without water.
“Michael drove for 87 years on the road and he travelled the world. He certainly saw it all over 108 years,” Fr O’Brien added.
Michael attended Mass in the Killarney parish up to about three years ago and, after that, he tuned in on the webcam but he always had a preference for the Latin Mass.
He was delighted to receive the Papal Award from Pope Francis following the Meeting of Families in Ireland and it took pride of place at his home in Muckross.
Michael was born in Glencar in 1913 and, at the age of six he survived the Spanish ‘flu and, later, double pneumonia. He also lived to tell the tale of the War of Independence, the Civil War and two world wars.
After a distinguished career as a radio operator in the Merchant Navy and with the Irish Aviation Authority, he arrived to live in Muckross, Killarney 40 years ago with his wife Joan, who passed away in 2008. The couple had five children.
Michael always attributed his incredible longevity to adopting a caring approach to others, avoiding unnecessary conflict, doing everything in moderation, enjoying good food, plenty of rest and a daily glass of whiskey and milk – but only if served in a cut crystal glass.
Ireland’s oldest man advised people to be honest in their dealings with everybody, be at peace with themselves as much as possible and try to avoid doing wrong by anybody.
“You shouldn’t worry about the future. It’s not in your hands. Why worry about things that we can do nothing whatsoever about,” he frequently asked.
Michael was driving up to the age of 104 and his first car was a stylish, trend-setting Model T Ford. He loved nature, animals and gardening and his display of vegetables and roses had to be seen to be appreciated.
Fr O’Brien recalled that to mark his 100th birthday, Michael treated himself to a ride-on lawnmower which took pride of place alongside his VW Jetta.
“Everything about him was perfection and precision, from the way he presented himself from very early in the morning, he was ready for the day ahead,” said the celebrant who was joined on the altar by Bishop Emeritus Bill Murphy and Fr Paddy O’Donoghue.
Fr Kieran said Michal’s health didn’t deteriorate until the past two or three weeks when his strength went and, on Sunday morning, his time had come and he bowed out of this life so gracefully.
Predeceased by his wife Joan (McTernan), his siblings Tim, Deo, Diarmuid and Maureen, his sons-in-law Fern and Joe and his grandson Meredith, Michael is deeply missed by his daughters Maureen (Lulling), Avril (O’Keeffe) and Teresina (Gallagher), his sons Michael and Meredith, son-in-law Denis, daughters-in-law Ann and Lynda, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, relatives, neighbours and many friends.
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