THE death has occurred in Killarney of PJ Harnett, a legendary figure in the tourism and hospitality trade, who spent four decades as one of the most familiar faces in the Killarney Great Southern Hotel.
A native of Ballintogher, Lixnaw he started out his working life with CIE before he secured a night porter’s role with the Great Southern Hotels in 1953, initially on a month’s trial. That was later extended to three months before the hotel became the setting for a 40-year career in the hotel industry, serving under 17 different managers.
He regularly recalled the early days when there was no switchboard in the hotel and, by night, guests alerted porters by ringing bells in the their rooms with a board on the wall indicating to staff which room was seeking assistance.
PJ also fondly remembered the wonderful days when the GSH held a gala dinner dance at Christmas and even the children in attendance were required to wear formal evening wear.
He was appointed deputy head porter in 1960 and he succeeded Denis Collins in the top job in 1985, continuing in the job he loved until 1993.
Down through the years, PJ had the pleasant task of formally welcoming many VIP guests including film producer David Lean and actor John Mills during the making of Ryan’s Daughter, screen idols Tyrone Power and Rita Hayworth, astronaut John Glenn, several Presidents of Ireland and numerous Taoisigh.
He was also on duty the day in 1969 Eamonn Casey was ordained Bishop of Kerry and remembers the guest list of over 1,000 people that included President Eamon de Valera and Taoiseach Jack Lynch.
PJ, who lived in Upper Park Road and was a proud lifelong member of the Pioneer and Total Abstinence Association, was predeceased by his wife, Kathleen, and he is survived by his sons, Padraig and Brendan, daughters-in-law Kathleen and Maura, grandchildren David, Mark, Edel, Robbie and Seán, sisters Mary (Behan, Tralee) and Phil (Deevy, Listowel), brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, many other relatives and many great friends.
Reposing at O’Shea’s Funeral Home, Cathedral Place, this Friday evening from 4.30pm to 6.30pm, removal will take place afterwards to the Church of the Resurrection, Park Road, Killarney. Requiem Mass will be on Saturday at 1.00pm with burial afterwards in Aghadoe Cemetery, Killarney.
The family has asked for donations in lieu of flowers, if desired to be made to the Hawthorn Ward, St Columbanus Home, Killarney.
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