There was a sense of great loss today as family and friends bade their final farewell to a much loved and very popular Letterkenny man, Hugo Shiels.
The high esteem in which he was held was reflected by the large turnout of people who, while observing social distancing, lined the route from his home in the Oldtown area of the town to nearby Leck Cemetery as he made his final journey, with many behind the hearse.
He passed away, aged 74, In Letterkenny University Hospital, on Thursday, following a period of illness.
One of 15 children, and originally from Manorcunningham, he had seven brothers and seven sisters.
His funeral mass was streamed live from St. Eunan’s Cathedral where, in his homily, Fr. Damien Nejad noted that Hugo was the middle child and was the “heart of the family, and was the person people went to if ever there was a problem.”
He recalled how Hugo met his wife-to-be, Maureen, on a blind date on Christmas Eve in 1965, at Clarke’s Newsagent on Letterkenny’s Main Street.
They got married in the Cathedral around one year later.
He worked for 30 years in John Dunne’s shop (now demolished and replaced) on the High Road in the town. The independently owned grocery shop was, in many ways, a meeting place for the community, and Hugo was great to the customers and he loved his time there.
In more recent times he was the caretaker at Little Angels School until his retirement a couple of years ago. Maureen also worked there.
During this time, he raised considerable sums of money for the school, and had a network of helpers, and called upon many of them to help out on a voluntary basis to do work for the school.
Hugo’s catch-phrase was “no problem” and nothing was ever a problem for him, and he did so much for so many people.
Fr. Nejad said that Hugo’s passing was on the feast day of St. Bernadette, who also died on April 16th, albeit back in 1879.
He noted that the film about St. Bernadette was called “Song of Bernadette” and it was the last film that Hugo ever watched, doing so while he was in intensive care after arrangements had been made especially for him by his son Enda.
Like St. Bernadette, who is strongly associated with Lourdes, Hugo concerned himself “with trying to make people feel better” and in some ways “was like a doctor as he was always helping others.”
Fr. Nejad also stated that “Hugo was always someone who was on the go, and he loved meeting people.”
As well as being a great family man, he was also a great neighbour to those around him.
“The best way to sum up Hugo is that he loved people, he loved life and had great fun, and was known for telling jokes” Fr. Nejad said.
Concluding, he said that Hugo “had a fabulous life with no regrets, with great family and friends, and will be fondly remembered by the many people who knew him and loved him.”
A very religious man, Hugo always said the rosary and Fr. Najed encouraged those who are not already saying the rosary daily to do so.
The funeral took place from his late residence to Leck Cemetery with a minibus known as Hugo's bus (used by Little Angels School and paid for from fundraising) going in front of the funeral courtege.
Mgr. Kevin Gillespie officiated at the burial where Hugo's son Enda spoke and read a poem by Geraldine McGeever.
Deceased is survived by his wife, Maureen, son, Enda, daughter-in-law, Niamh, daughter, Angela, son-in-law, Nicky, grandchildren, Rhea and Caidin, brothers Jim, Sean, Martin and Declan, sisters Mary Agnes, Kathleen, Rosenna, and Sally and a large circle of relatives and friends to whom deepest sympathy is extended.
A memorial Mass will be held at a later date.
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