Tributes paid to mother and autism activist who was devoted to her son

Susan Dunne: Devoted her life to caring for her son

A single bunch of flowers resting on a plain coffin and the warm glow of the affection of those who knew her reflected the life of a murder victim who had always put other people first.

Friends and co-religionists of Susan Dunne, who died at the age of 62, yesterday bid her a moving farewell at a funeral service where striking tributes were paid.

Her body was found at her home near Lixnaw, Co Kerry, on Wednesday last. Her son, Patrick, 20, who has special needs, has since been charged with her murder and is in custody.

Around 250 people crowded into Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tralee, for the dignified service, conducted by Gordon Foale, local co-ordinator of the congregation’s body of elders.

Her coffin was brought from the hearse to the door of the hall by two members of Kerry Autism Action, of which she was chairperson.

Patrick was also included in the prayers.

Mr Foale, said Ms Dunne had the most wonderful qualities, with a lot of love to give and great patience which came through in her dealings with Patrick’s autism. She had devoted 19 years of her life to caring for him and did her best to ensure he had the best life possible.

“They were inseparable which makes a tragic event all the more tragic,” he told the hushed congregation.

He said Ms Dunne was born in 1951, in Islington, London, and she and her siblings were fostered out because their parents could not look after them.

In the last few years she had made a concerted effort to find her family, with a degree of success. She had also learned that her father had asked the authorities to give the children back and was consoled to know they had not been abandoned.

Ms Dunne had worked as a dressmaker in London’s fashionable Carnaby St and had made dresses for Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth.

Mr Foale said she had two children, Anthony and Helen, in her first marriage to Seán, which ended in divorce, and later married Bill Dunne, with whom she had Patrick. Mr Dunne and Anthony Sheehy attended the service.

He said Ms Dunne had worked tirelessly with other parents who had children with autism, always at the end of the phone doing everything she could to support those parents.

Her son, Anthony, who spoke briefly at the end of the ceremony, said she had a hard life and things did not always go the way she wished them to.

Her wish was to be cremated and that would be carried out privately, he said. The service ended with the hymn, ‘He Will Call’.


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