Mourners pay tribute to Florence, a woman ‘endowed with grace and charm’

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland and its carers were yesterday poignantly thanked for the help they gave finance minister Michael Noonan’s wife Florence, who died from the disease last Thursday, 14 years after the illness had gripped her life at the age of 54.

The couple’s son Michael Jr singled out carers “Mary, Jessie, Kathleen” and the Alzheimer’s centre in Adare who “offered her friendship and companion ship”.

He also remembered the carers “who continued to visit mam after she left the family home” and Professor Declan Lyons for his care of their mother.

The congregation at St Paul’s church in Limerick included Taoiseach Enda Kenny along with many of Mr Noonan’s political colleagues and the judiciary.

More than 100 children from St Paul’s primary school, where Flor Noonan taught for 22 years, donned their uniforms to form a guard of honour.

In his homily, the minister’s brother, Fr Jim Noonan, who spent 47 years in Nigeria with the Kiltegan Fathers, said: “Florence was a woman of beauty and talent. A lovely lady, skilled in the teaching profession and endowed with grace and charm and an all-embracing dignity.

“Even though she often rubbed shoulders with the haves in society, she never forgot the less privileged and the little people.”

He said she had early years of love and companionship and later years, during her illness, of love and sadness.

Fr Noonan and parish priest Fr John Leonard led 22 other priests, including the administrator of Limerick diocese, Fr Tony Mullin, at the Mass yesterday.

The Taoiseach was accompanied by his wife, Fionnuala.

Also in the congregation were Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, Attorney General Máire Whelan, and ministers Pat Rabbitt, Alan Shatter, James Reilly, Leo Varadkar and Brendan Howlin.

Junior ministers present included Jan O’Sullivan, Brian Hayes, Lucinda Creighton, Paul Kehoe, and Dinny McGinley.

Chief whip Shane McEntee, Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan, and MEP Sean Kelly were also in attendance.

Fianna Fáil spokesmen Michael McGrath, Niall Collins, and Timmy Dooley also attended as did Senator Martin McAleese.

Former political figures present included Alan Dukes, Austin Curry, Peter Barry, Gerard Collins, and Tom O’Donnell.

Members of judiciary present included Mr Justice George Birmingham of the High Court and Judge Tom O’Donnell of the Circuit Court.

John Tuohy, principal of St Paul’s school, who joined pupils in the guard of honour, said: “Flor was a very loving and caring teacher and taught here at St Paul’s for 22 years during which time she taught every class and endeared herself to her colleagues and every child she met.”

Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyle, along with Chief Justice Susan Denham and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore were at the church on Saturday when the remains were received.

Among the other ministers who attended the removal were Simon Coveney, Phil Hogan, Frances Fitzgerald, Jimmy Deenihan, Richard Bruton, and Fergus O’Dowd.

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