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Heartbroken family and friends bid final farewell to Lesley

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Heartbroken family and friends bid final farewell to Lesley thumbnailLesley McHugh

THE funeral has been held of Strabane woman Lesley McHugh who had been missing for almost five weeks.

The 69-year-old's body was recovered from the River Foyle last Wednesday. She was last spoken to at around 11pm on Saturday, January 6.

Mrs McHugh (née Patton) - a former hairdresser - lived at Brookvale in the town. She was well-known and highly-respected by many in the area.

Her funeral service was held at St Mary's Church, Melmount Road, on Saturday morning and was officiated over by parish priest, Rev Michael Doherty.

Hundreds of mourners joined her heartbroken family alongside members of the various search and rescue teams who had assisted in the searches.

Fr Doherty told the service: "This has been a very long month for the family of Lesley McHugh from the time that their mother went missing until the finding of her body on Wednesday, February 7.

"It has been a time of searching, waiting and hoping. Sadly, right from the start, not the hope that Lesley would walk in the door of her home in Brookvale again but the hope that they would be able to do what we are doing today, praying at her Requiem Mass in this church where she has been a regular worshiper for many years."

Tribute

The priest paid tribute to the tireless dedication of the volunteers and search workers who assisted in the daily searches for Mrs McHugh.

"The reason that the family can do this can be found in the fact that so many people have given of their time, their energy, their generosity in searching and never giving up," he continued.

"Police on both sides of the border, the various community search and rescue groups - some of whom are represented here today - some from nearby and some from very far away who volunteered their services.

"Then the good people of the Strabane area who walked the banks of the rivers and supplied the searchers with food and drink on days that were bitterly cold and maybe even dangerous for them to be along the riverside.

"Some of them didn't even know Lesley or her family but they felt a genuine sympathy for them in their plight and they wanted to do something no matter how small to help.

"There was never, as the family know, going to be a happy ending but the finding of Lesley's body has brought great relief to Edel, Damien, Aidan and their families.

"They have had the opportunity over the past few days whenever the searching was finished and her remains were found, to look back and appreciate the qualities of the woman that they bring to burial today."

The parish priest said the mother-of-three "was a woman who enjoyed life" and socialising.

"She enjoyed her work as a hairdresser. One of the reasons for that was all the contact that she had with her customers," Fr Doherty said.

"She and her husband, Christopher, had the privilege of bringing up three children at Main Street, then Lisnafin Park before moving to Brookvale.

"And, naturally Christopher's death over 14 years ago at the relatively young age of 56 took its toll on her. But sometime later, Lesley regained her love of life, her love of dancing, her love of travel and over the next few years there were six grandchildren to keep her young and keep her occupied.

"Then, for the last two years, painful ill health afflicted her and at times she found it very difficult to cope with."

Closure

The cleric said the recovery of Mrs Patton's remains would help bring her grieving family closure.

"There is no doubt that the manner and suddenness of Lesley's death has affected us all but I know that her family would want us to leave this church today thinking of Lesley's life.

"(To think) of all the positive attitudes, the friendships, the memories that she's left behind her. We do that and we also pray that Lesley is at peace.

"Her death wasn't as we expected but those of you who attend Mass regularly in this parish know from your experience of the funerals that we have here that death can come at any age and in any way.

"Lesley is now at peace. We pray that she is now with the Lord and whatever way heaven works, that she is with her husband Christopher and those of her own family who have gone before her," he said.

Following the service, Mrs McHugh was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery. Her family had requested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to Search and Rescue.

She is survived by her children Edel, Damien and Aidan, grandchildren and wider family circle.

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