Wednesday, June 09, 2021

DESPITE the sunny bank holiday weekend in Tramore, a cloud of sadness descended over the town following the sudden death of a popular young woman on Saturday, June 5. People were silenced instantly on hearing the news, so widely loved and known was Katie Halley.

33-year-old Katie has been described in recent days as “the heartbeat and smile of the town.” She is survived by her loving parents Anne Healy and Pat Halley, her sister Gillian, brother Tim and her stepmother Anita. A wider circle of nephew, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are all included in those who are suffering the loss of Katie.

Having suffered an unexpected illness, Katie had been a patient in University Hospital Waterford for nine days in the caring hands of the palliative care team. There is always a sense of injustice when someone dies at such a young age, but particularly with Katie, there is resounding shock that such a vibrant life could be extinguished. Tramore is an increasingly growing town, but when someone like Katie dies, it suddenly becomes extremely small, united as it is through grief. Katie is remembered for her pure heart, her sunny disposition, her extraordinary generosity and kindness and how eagerly she extended the hand of friendship to everyone. Speaking to this newspaper, family members said “our hearts are broken.”

It was a rare day when you didn’t see Katie sitting outside her beloved Molly’s café on the lower prom, having walked her usual route down Gallwey’s Hill. From there, she would watch the world go by, and if you stood still too long to say hello, your plans for the day were gone because you would spend it happily talking to Katie and putting the world to rights.

She was also on hand to greet customers into Redlane for many years, having joined in 2007 for work experience. It was a running joke that she could never leave the shop as she was such a major cog in the wheel there that it would close without her. That was true of everything and everywhere that Katie went, she brought a sense of real joy with her, because she saw real joy in every day. That joy was infectious because her smile, whether it was outside Molly’s, in Redlane, or walking on the Prom (while admiring everyone’s dog!), was genuine, wide and bright.

In just 33 years, she managed to leave lasting impacts on the lives of her many friends, and the stories emerging over the past weekend have been testament to the fun-loving, generous person she was. Stories of shared coffees, music lessons, cinema dates, boxes of biscuits and walks are all shaped by one common memory – Katie’s quick-witted sense of humour. She had razor sharp humour and always had the perfect response in any situation. If you ever needed someone on hand who had all the latest updates or news, it was Katie and she loved nothing more than to sit in her beloved Tramore and chat about recent updates around the town.

Having been born with a condition called Neurofibromatosis (a genetic disorder of the nervous system leading to the growth of tumours on the nerve tissues), Katie was a keen fundraiser for the Neurofibromatosis Association of Ireland, regularly holding events for the charity. Following her death, Katie’s family created an online fundraiser in her name, in lieu of funeral flowers. All proceeds will be given to the association, which at the time of writing stood at over €13,000.

This is particularly poignant, because for many, the natural thing to do to remember Katie is to meet for a cup of tea and honour her memory. With current restrictions making this impossible for such large numbers, hundreds of people are donating monies to a cause that Katie truly believed in, and because in many ways, this is Katie’s final fundraising event for the association.

Judging by the high volumes of donations, people are giving back the kindness that Katie always brought to them.

Katie’s requiem mass took place at 11am in the Holy Cross Church, Tramore on Tuesday, June 8 and she was buried in the adjoining cemetery in a white coffin, symbolising her purity of heart. While the family home was private, family and friends had an opportunity to pay respects as Katie made one final journey, leaving Cliff Road at 10.15am, before passing by her beloved apartment and then following her morning route down Gallwey’s Hill and onto the Prom. The funeral cortege passed Molly’s café before travelling up the town towards the church. A round of applause echoed across the beach as Katie passed by on her final journey, the streets lined with those whose lives she impacted. While this is a deeply sad and difficult time for all those who loved Katie, her final journey was a celebration of the joy she found in life, and the joy she brought to the lives of countless others.

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