CELEBRATIONS: 100-year-old John Coffey, Lewis Road Killarney, with his daughters Noreen Coffey and Mary O’Rourke and extended family members at the 100th birthday celebrations at the Dr Crokes GAA Clubhouse on Monday evening. Picture: Eamonn Keogh

By Sean Moriarty

The county’s latest centenarian, Lewis Road resident John Coffey, was surrounded by family and friends from all over Ireland, Australia and America who gathered for an enormous party in Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, to celebrate his 100 birthday on Saturday.

Over 200 family members and friends attended the party where members of the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club’s male choir provided the entertainment.

“It was great that he was able to catch up and reminisce about old times,” his daughter Mary O’Rourke told the Killarney Advertiser. “He sang with the choir, ‘Goodbye from the Musical White Horse Inn’, a song he would have performed when he was involved in the ‘Tops of the Town’. He felt the whole night was an affirmation of his life. He gave a great speech, it lasted 13 minutes, and he had no problem facing the 200 audience. It gave him the confidence to look ahead to many more years. His grandson Liam is getting married in October 2020 and that is the next big milestone for him.”

Continuing the celebrations, neighbours and friends organised a Mass for him at Dr Crokes Clubhouse on Monday – the day of his actual birthday.

Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Michael Gleeson, also presented the President’s cheque to him.

“That was a very proud moment for him,” Mary added. “Michael Gleason spoke in a very personal way on how he first met my father around Beaufort. He had two great loyalties, Dr Crokes and Beaufort GAA, and it was a source of great pride for him that both teams won All-Ireland finals in recent years.”

Ahead of his two parties, he asked that people would not give him presents, instead donations to two local charities, Down Syndrome Kerry and the Killarney Cardiac Response Unit.

Over €4,000 euros was raised this way.

“He was blown away by the generosity of the people who donated and gave cash gifts.”

His first job was when he took over the role as a Cottage Rent Collector from his father from 1939 to 1948, cycling from Beaufort back to west Kerry on a daily basis – which he now attributes to his good health and long life.

He then took a job in Killarney Town Council as a Community Welfare Officer and built the family home on Lewis Road with his wife Kitty O’Shea from Brandon, who he met on his travels. They had five children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

John Coffey celebrating his 100th birthday with members of the extended Coffey family at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, Killarney on Saturday.