The Church of the Holy Cross in Tramore was packed to overflowing for the funeral of the 62-year-old from Waterford, who died in hospital on Saturday, less than two weeks after he suddenly fell ill, shortly after presenting his mid-morning Déise AM show on WLR FM.
The station said this week they had received thousands of phone calls and messages from members of the public, expressing sadness and sympathy following the presenter’s death.
His programme was consistently the most listened-to radio show in Co Waterford during his 27 years in the chair, and he won a PPI award in 2003 for Best Current Affairs Programme.
His partner Des O’Keeffe told the congregation yesterday that the 25 years they had been together had gone by “in the blink of an eye” and “so much has changed” since their early days.
“Many of you know him from Déise AM and WLR, but perhaps you don’t know a lot about his personal story,” said Des.
Billy was ordained to the priesthood in June of 1980 and spent time in Rome, where he worked on Vatican Radio and “began his love of radio and love of all things Italian”.
On his return to Waterford, he began his local radio involvement, while still a priest, with the Good News Show on WLR, which became a full-time career after he left the ministry.
Among his many interests were cooking, gardening, music, theatre, sport, and politics, and he was a believer in fairness and justice.
“Billy followed the US elections with great interest,” his partner said, before drawing gales of laughter with a recent memory from Billy’s time in hospital. “I told him on the Wednesday morning that Trump had been elected, thinking that the shock might wake him up. Sadly, that didn’t happen and we are where we are today.”
Billy is also survived by his mother Kay, brothers Declan and Ronan and sister Celine who spoke of the “sheer avalanche of goodwill” from the public since Saturday.