Tributes for World War II veteran

TRIBUTES poured in yesterday for a World War II veteran who later became a much-loved Franciscan Brother and peace campaigner.

Originally a native of Dublin, Brother Columbanus Deegan OFM died suddenly in Waterford on Wednesday morning aged 82. He lived at the Waterford Franciscan Friary, Lady Lane in Waterford City.

He was known locally for his work with the marginalised in society, namely the homeless and those with addiction problems.

Brother Columbanus served as an altar boy at the Eucharistic Congress in the Phoenix Park 75 years ago.

Just 13 years later, he marched in London’s Victory Parade having returned from World War II.

He was involved with the Special Olympics movement for over 25 years.

In 1978, he paraded with the Irish Special Olympics team in New York.

He also met Muhammad Ali in 2003 at Croke Park in Dublin for the opening of Special Olympics World Games.

Columbanus joined the British army aged 17 after being rejected by the Irish army for being “too skinny”.

After serving in RAF Bomber Command, he joined a unit whose mission was to salvage crashed aircraft or aircrew.

He travelled around Belgium, France and Italy on a Harley Davidson motorbike.

If he decided the aircraft concerned could be repaired, it would be sent back to Britain for repair and, if not, it was stripped for parts, which were in scarce supply in Britain.

This was prior to his involvement in the D-Day landings at Normandy, something he was reluctant to talk about later in his life. He was also present at Normandy for the 40th anniversary of the battle.

He also witnessed the liberation of Belsen.

Mayor of Waterford City, Cllr Mary O’Halloran, yesterday said: “Almost everyone you meet in Waterford has their own stories to tell about Brother Columbanus who was such an active force for good in our city.

“Never one to simply follow fashionable causes, he worked tirelessly in his later years for those left behind by the Celtic Tiger.

“Bro Columbanus was also a keen campaigner for the legacy of the thousands of Irish men and women who fought overseas and whose stories were too often written out of our history,” added Ms O’Halloran.

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