A Tribute to Our Dear Friend and Colleague, Barbara Keena
As a school community, what can we say about our dear friend and colleague? Whilst penning this piece is laden with the greatest of difficulty and the heaviest of hearts, it is no difficult task to find a multitude of wonderful things to say.
Barbara, fondly known as Barbs to some and as Babs to others, began working here in Loreto College as an Special Needs Assistant in 2012, having worked before that in Presentation Primary School and in Coláiste Mhuire. During Barbara’s time in these schools, she gained the highest of respect from both staff and students alike. Not only did Barbara look after the needs of our young people here in Loreto College, she looked after the needs of school staff too. When anything went wrong, it was a case of “Ask Barbara”, or “Barbara will sort that”.
An act that typified both the consideration and intuition of Barbara was seen in the annual distribution of lockers. Each year, this task was executed with fairness in that a record was kept that ensured there was rotation between the dreaded bottom and cherished top lockers. Going that characteristic step further, Barbara discreetly arranged for the lockers of students with physical or sensory issues to be positioned in accessible, quieter areas of what can be frenetic, busy and chatter-filled spaces. Going even that characteristic step further, she was instrumental in the facilitation of a small locker area that she earmarked for students who may have needed or wanted that little bit extra by way of space and quiet in visiting their lockers. The dialogue and discretion involved in the arrangement of who got to secure a place in this most coveted of locker rooms is a hallmark of the intelligence and compassion that defined Barbara. And this is only the tip of the iceberg in how she intervened on behalf of our students. In all, the genuine love and care shown to our Loreto girls by Barbara was second to none.
During the school term, sometimes as early as shortly after 8am in the morning, there could be a knock at the staffroom door, followed by the familiar words, “Is Barbara there…I forgot my key!”. True to form, she was readily available to go to their assistance. The students that were specifically under Barbara’s care could tell their own story. Each narrative, however, is thematically similar. She was a real mother-figure to these students; accompanying them in the lift, carrying their books, walking with them, talking to them, building up their confidence… she was constantly reassuring them, reminding them of their own abilities and all that they could achieve.
Barbara’s work ethic, unsurprisingly to all who have known her, extended beyond the busy times when students populate the corridors. Shredding paper, photocopying, laminating…whatever was asked of Barbara was done with willingness and enthusiasm. Beyond being asked, however, Barbara had a sense of things that needed to or should be done; she would identify things that needed sorting, she would suggest things to management that she could do, she would see problems before they happened and offered solutions to keep things right. Her intuition and common sense matched her incredible energy for doing good. Awards evenings, open nights, evening musical performances – Barbara was there, quietly, discreetly, ready to do anything at all to help. Never watching the clock, she was always approachable and ready to go that extra mile. Put simply, she would do anything for Loreto College, its students, and staff.
Barbara walked the corridors of Loreto College with the dignity and grace of a lady, always with an encouraging word and a warm smile for staff and students alike. She was a loyal and true member of the staff of Loreto College and, more than that, she was a friend to us all.
Barbara was a true inspiration to others, quietly endeavouring on the behalf of those in need. Her charity and compassion for others was marked by her trips after work to donate blood so that others might have life, going each time the Irish Blood Transfusion Service visited Mullingar. This act of self-sacrifice and of giving is truly characteristic of her.
Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.
Barbara, you will always be our friend, and your name – Barbara…Barbs…Babs – will forever be in our hearts and our minds. You will be sorely missed in the corridors of Loreto College but they will be filled with your spirit, always.
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm, or night, or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
From “Benedictus”, John O’Donohue
Suaimhneas síoraí dá hanam dílis.