A mother of three who died in tragic circumstances in Mayo last week was a strong, kind and loving woman whose priority in life was the welfare and happiness of her beloved young sons, her funeral service has heard.
The body of 41-year-old occupational therapist, Valerie French Kilroy, was discovered at her home in Kilbree Lower, near Islandeady, Co Mayo on June 14. A native of Leap, in West Cork, she was the mother of three boys under the age of five. Her husband James has been charged with her murder.
At a celebration of her life at St Fatchna's Church of Ireland Cathedral in Rosscarbery, Co Cork her brother, David, said that Valerie's young sons were "almost unaware of the catastrophe that has unfolded around them.”
He vowed that their focus as a family would be on the well-being and future of the boys. He requested that mourners pray for the youngsters.
"Above all else please pray for the future of Valerie’s three sons.
Please pray that they will grow up to be the men their mother wanted to see, with lives as full of laughter, love, joy, happiness and hope as hers was.
David emphasised that the service was about celebrating Valerie's "wonderful life" instead of the "horrific circumstances" of her death.
However, he asked that all those who mourn his sister to pray for the person responsible for her death. He described Valerie as an "immensely caring and loving person".
"It was her calling both at home and at work throughout her life." He fondly reminisced about his younger years with his sister whose "wonderful laugh" and "happy-go-lucky" antics endeared her to all those who knew her.
"Before Valerie sat her first exam when she entered secondary school we all thought of her as a happy go lucky little fairy who entertained us with her antics and activities. We mistakenly assumed she came into that euphemistic category of “not very interested in school”. That was before she sat the exam."
He spoke of his sister's great appetite for life and the joy and enthusiasm she brought to the home she shared with her parents, brother and her sisters Suzette, Hilary and Veronica.
"Valerie had a wonderful laugh and just like our father, whom she adored, she had a great sense of fun and enjoyment, an immense capacity for work and a deep connection with people across the community wherever she was. Valerie could also be very serious, but only when necessary."
David said Valerie was very practical and capable across a wide range of areas. "She loved music, festivals, storytelling, art, crafts, nature, gardening and animals."
He stressed that Valerie was "very human."
"Valerie would leave you in no doubt about things and could communicate very directly when that was required. Maybe she appreciated more than the rest of us how precious time together with people we love really is."
He also detailed Valerie's work as an occupational therapist in North Mayo. He recalled a newspaper article she wrote which detailed her role in helping people to return to everyday activities.
Her aim, she said in the article, was to enable people to “take control of their world and regain a meaningful life for themselves".
Mr French also thanked an Garda Siochana, the HSE, Tusla, the funeral directors and other dedicated professionals for their help over the last few days. He said ultimately life is about helping other people.
As a close family friend often says,'We are only put here to help each other.' Valerie was put here to help us.
The chief mourners at the funeral included, Mrs Valerie French, mother of the deceased, the siblings of the late mother-of-three together with a wide family circle from Cork and further afield. Valerie’s colleagues from the HSE also travelled to Cork to join a very large congregation of her friends, parishioners and the wider community.
The Funeral Service was led by the local Church of Ireland rector and Dean of Ross, the Very Reverend Christopher Peters, together with the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton.
A note on the Order of Service encouraged mourners to send memories of and stories about Valerie to the Dean, so that, at an appropriate time in the future, these may be shared with her children. In his sermon, Dean Peters, who officiated at Valerie’s wedding in the Cathedral in 2008, said that he remembered her ready smile and laugh.
‘She was someone at ease in and with herself, happy to be a bit different and to do things differently… It is the precious memories of her life which must always define our memories of Valerie and her marriage to James and not the tragic and awful event of this last week.’
Valerie was laid to rest in a family grave in the adjoining churchyard.