Community champion, Billy Leahy, remembered in Kilkenny

Billy Leahy Memorial Defibrillator a mark of respect to a man who “trailed sunshine in his wake” and was devoted to his community

Darren Hassett

Reporter:

Darren Hassett

Email:

darren.hassett@kilkennypeople.ie

Community champion, Billy Leahy, remembered in Kilkenny

Billy Leahy, a local community hero PICTURE: Vicky Comerford

A large crowd gathered in Newpark Close Family Resource Centre last Friday as Fr Frank Purcell launched the Billy Leahy Memorial Defibrillator project for the Eastern Environs recently.

It was a mark of respect to a man who “trailed sunshine in his wake” and was devoted to his community.

Sadly, 59-year-old Newpark resident Billy, a DigiFen student at the Newpark Close FRC and a member of its Defib committee, passed away last month.

Billy was a larger than life personality who liked weak tea and was a great community person and a friend to all.

The Defib initiative had begun with the DigiFen group in Newpark Close FRC. This social inclusion group of older members of the community meet every Friday morning for computer tuition with Margaret Lanigan, a cup of tea and a friendly chat.

Wishing to give something back to the community they proposed asking local residents to unite and to provide defibrillator coverage for the area.

Their representative, Mick Dooley, invited locals to a meeting in the Orchard House and so the Eastern Environs Defibrillator Group was born.

At their first meeting the elected committee costed the project and set about organising events to raise the necessary funds.

It was decided to invest in an outdoor Defibrillator providing 24/7 access to the community. Since Billy’s passing the project has been named after him in his honour.

A post on the Newpark Family Resource Centre’s Facebook page after Billy’s death, described him as “fun-loving, kind and optimistic, always putting the concerns of others first”.

It added: “The only time he asked for preferential treatment was at our mid-morning break, ‘Can I have the first cup of weak tea,’ he’d ask. Billy Leahy was a major positive in the life of all those who knew him. With his big smile and his charming ways he trailed sunshine in his wake and made dreary days bright.”

A highlight of the morning of the launch was a Defibrillator demonstration by members of the Order of Malta. If you wish to donate to this life saving project you may do so by contacting Treasurers Pat Coonan or Jim Fogarty.

Lauding the community initiative Fr Purcell noted that the committee included residents from eight estates in the area. A successful day resulted in this community initiative raising €1,300 towards the fundraising target.