Brother Coffey Remembered

Brother Coffey passed away on 9th November 2021 leaving a great sadness in our hearts, knowing that we will never see his lovely warm smile or chat to him again.
Brother Coffey Remembered

Brother Coffey passed away on 9th November 2021 leaving a great sadness in our hearts, knowing that we will never see his lovely warm smile or chat to him again. For the staff who knew him well, he was a constant presence around the school. Each day he would collect the post from Kate in the office, smiling and chatting to anyone he met along the way. He loved people and had such a profound interest in them, remembering everything about them help by a remarkable memory. He touched people’s hearts and made you feel special, a rare gift in today’s world. He was always looking outward to the wider community and even in retirement kept himself informed about the day to day life of the school.

Brother Coffey taught Woodwork and Construction Studies in St. Aidan's and was a resident in the Monastery on the school grounds for many years. He did the beautiful carving outside the office door and would regularly carry out repairs to the school in the evenings and at weekends, often with the company of Seán Moore, one of our caretakers. Seán was a close friend of Br. Coffey for over forty years – Westmeath men both - and says that he was one of the most helpful people he ever met.

One of the last conversations he had with him was in relation to a leak in the Brothers’ home. Our caretakers, Seán and Tony, struggles to find the source of the leak but Brother Coffey was still alert enough to locate the source himself and facilitated its fixing. If he was Seán’s friend, he had been a mentor for Tony when he was a young boy in this school. He encouraged and instilled confidence in him when playing sport as a young man, and later called to his home as good friends.

Brother Coffey was well known for coaching football teams in the school over the years and even in advanced age when he had retired enjoyed travelling on the bus to both hurling and football matches. He was a humorous presence on the sideline during days of stress between the white lines.

Brother Coffey was held in high regard by both students and colleagues - his name regularly one of the first mentioned by past pupils and staff alike as they reflect on the school. Over the years he has had a lot of visits from past pupils which is a true reflection of the fond affection and high regard he enjoyed. One such past pupil, now a teacher here in St Aidan’s, vividly remembers his encouraging smile and words when he was a First Year student playing for the school for the first time. On arriving back as a teacher in 2012, he shook his hand giving him a great welcome back, also remembering his Dad and asking after him.

Another past-pupil, now also a teacher, said his light in the old Woodwork Room was always on until 6pm as he helped students that may not have loved Shakespeare! In the morning the vice was often wound tightly repairing hurleys as well as the odd school bag or shoe! He ran a shop for many years and if you were ever stuck for money he’d give you a wink and put it on the tab. Afternoons were spent encouraging sportsmen from every different sport. He gave his life to St. Aidan’s and saved many poor créatúrs from a bumpy path in life. Always smiling, always joking.

For many years Brother Coffey facilitated the use of the front room in the Brothers’ home for the Irish and French orals. He was always so welcoming and made the room nice and comfortable for the students and examiners. He talked gently to the students beforehand to settle them down and was well able for the cúpla focal as well. He checked on the examiners for cups of tea or drinks of water and really looked after everyone. If you shared a trouble with Brother Coffey, he would always check in on you about it the next time he saw you, no matter how long it had been since you told him.

Some teachers got an invitation over to the monastery as he loved nothing more than tea, apple tart and most of all the chat about Gaelic football, primarily focusing on the history of the game and local Westmeath and Offaly rivalries. One teacher recalls his memory for games, players, clubs, and scores was incredible, the Jimmy Magee of Gaelic football! A man that is virtually indescribable in words but kind, gentle, caring and honest spring to mind most. His knowledge of people and how we are all connected never ceased to amaze.

When Bother Coffey discovered that his birthday was two days apart from one of our teachers, with his impeccable memory he never forgot to mark the special day, with a card written so neatly it was hard to believe a ruler hadn’t been used. (Even though she was often late with a card or a present!) She feels lucky to have encountered such a special person.

He was a man of many talents and interests. He loved music, making sure to stay up to date with technology. He once said he didn’t watch the Late Late Show but preferred to watch his favourite musicians on YouTube! He was a proud Christian Brother and it was obvious that the welfare and management of St. Aidan’s meant a lot to Brother Coffey.

When Mr Shannon told him about being granted approval for our additional school accommodation project he said that he hoped he would be alive to see it. Sadly that isn’t the case but we know the continued success of St. Aidan's would mean a lot to him.

On a dark cold winter’s evening, a teacher leaving the school feeling the winter blues with the darkness of the evening was chatting to Brother Coffey. He gave her a glimmer of hope; “Just remember, this will all be over in three months and the spring will come”. Those words are a solace to that teacher, especially when life is difficult. Let us all remember those words when we think of him and never forget the wonderful warm and interesting personality which has impacted all who knew him.

He is firmly imprinted in our minds and in the school, his warmth, kindness, love and genuine interest in people, a remarkable man. His legend and legacy will live on forever in our hearts and on the corridors of St. Aidan's. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas síoraí dá anam uasal.

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