The wife of Greek fire victim Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp has told mourners that she is still very angry that he was stolen from her after less than four days of marriage in such a cruel manner.
Zoe Holohan was speaking at a memorial service and a celebration of the life of her late husband who died on the couple’s honeymoon in Greece last July.
The newlyweds were honeymooning in the coastal resort of Mati, near Athens on July 23, when they were caught up in a blaze.
The couple got separated in the panic during the fire and Brian's remains were recovered from the sea a number of hours later.
Zoe wiped away tears at the top of Kilnasoolagh Church in the Clare village of Newmarket on Fergus on Saturday as she recalled that their wedding day “was the happiest day of my life”.
Addressing a packed church, Zoe said: “I am still very angry that Brian was stolen from me after less than four days of marriage in such a cruel manner.”
Zoe said that everyone had to come to the church on Saturday afternoon “for the man I loved, the man we all loved”.
She said that she was very thankful for every day that herself and Brian were together. Zoe said: “He is the best partner anyone could ever ask for.”
The couple were together for four years before their wedding day and Zoe said: “He was forever patient and smiling. Brian’s smile is probably the thing I miss the most about him. He would greet me every day when I came from work with his beautiful smile.
She said: “Even if it was worst day Brian would transform it into the greatest."
Brian was 46 when he was taken from me. He filled his years on this planet with love, kindness and adventure and he will never be forgotten.
Zoe described Brian as “utterly kind, and his work as a voluntary worker is testament to that. There were nights when he would trek off quite late to ensure that essential medical supplies would reach their destination and then he would go off to work the following morning”.
Brian was an active member of ‘Blood Bikes East’ which provides a free medical transport service between hospitals in Dublin and many of Brian’s colleagues from the charity were in attendance at the memorial service.
Zoe mentioned that Brian volunteered last year New Year’s Eve to cover an emergency in his work with the charity.
Zoe suffered injuries in the Greek fire and required a crutch to support her in and out of the Church on Saturday.
The families and friends of the couple came together to bless Brian’s ashes that were placed at the top of the church - Brian’s remains were cremated at an earlier service here where Zoe was unable to attend as she was still recovering from her injuries in a Greek hospital.
In her tribute to Brian, Zoe referred to the “heart-breaking” number of months she has endured stating that she also lost her father - Colm Holohan who died suddenly after a short illness on August 12 last just weeks after Brian's death.
Zoe said that she has spent four months in Greek hospital care.
Zoe paid tribute to her “incredible” family, friends along with the “kindness of strangers” for their support since the tragedy. She said: "You kept me alive."
At the end of her eulogy, the congregation got to their feet to give Zoe a standing ovation and she was warmly embraced by Brian’s mother, Rosemary as she retook her seat at the front of the small Church.
In attendance at the Church were the aide de camp to President Michael D Higgins, Captain Eoin Troy and aide de camp to Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, Captain Ciaran Woulfe along with the Irish ambassador to Greece, Ms Orla O’Hanrahan.*
Brian’s lifelong friend, Adrian Casey officiated as Best Man to Brian and Zoe at their wedding last July days before tragedy struck.
In his tribute to Brian at Kilnasoolagh Church, Adrian described Brian as " kind, considerate, generous - a man who thought of others before himself without even a thought”.
Brian was Best Man to Adrian at his own wedding 20 years ago and Adrian said: “The last three months have been a terrible time for us all living this nightmare that we have all struggled to come to terms with."
Brian will be so very proud the way everyone has been there for each other, pulling together, united in their support. It just goes to show that we all carry a little bit of Brian within ourselves.
Adrian said: “Nothing was more important to Brian than those close to him, so let’s keep close together.”
In his words to the congregation, Canon Brendan O’Donoghue recalled telling Zoe in recent days of Brian’s late father, Denis’s generosity to others "and Zoe said to me little wonder that Brian had that great spark of generosity and giving within him”.
Canon O’Donoghue was a co-celebrant at the service with Chief Celebrant at the Church of Ireland church, Very Rev Dean Maurice Sirr and Canon O’Donoghue said: “What happened was an absolute terrible tragedy. Sadly for Rosemary, this is the second tragic death of her two sons.
“Colin died in a motorcycle accident just after a day or two of buying that motorcycle some years ago and that Brian would be taken so suddenly after his marriage to Zoe.”