By Charlie Keegan
BEATRICE Pembroke Walsh lived her life to the full. She spread sunshine and joy wherever she went and from her earliest moments was determined to make her mark on this world. For her family and many friends, she achieved that and much more, and despite being diagnosed with a terminal illness a little over 12 months ago, Beatrice insisted on living life to the full, irrespective of what life threw at her.
A proud Kerry woman, Beatrice first arrived in Carlow as a student at IT Carlow (now South East Technical University) in the late 1980s, graduating in 1990, but returned in 1998 following her marriage to David Walsh, also a proud Kerryman, where the couple initially lived in Beechwood Park, Pollerton before moving to Lower Rossmore, Killeshin in 2000, where she lived until her death on Tuesday 4 October.
Daughter of Tom and Helen Pembroke, Beatrice was born on 14 March 1969 and grew up in Castleisland in the loving embrace of her parents and her older brother Brian. She enjoyed an incredibly happy childhood in Castleisland, where her father ran a drapery shop on the main street. Always outgoing, her love of people saw her spend many hours in the shop watching her dad dealing with customers. It fostered in Beatrice an entrepreneurial spirit and a lifelong interest in other people.
After her leaving certificate in the Presentation Convent, Castleisland, Beatrice studied industrial product design at IT Carlow. It was a natural choice for Beatrice – a fabulous artist, she won her first of many awards for painting in an arts competition for adults at the age of 11.
Having finished college, Beatrice tenaciously pursued an extremely successful career as a graphic designer for two Kerry-based companies. After graduation, Beatrice initially joined JJ Sheehy Designs in Tralee as trainee graphic designer. She excelled at her work and performed her duties with total ownership and came to the attention of many customers and suppliers.
She was later headhunted by the CEO of Delpac Limited, a young ambitious graphic design company based in Ballinskelligs, south Kerry. Beatrice moved to Cahersiveen and joined Delpac as senior graphic designer.
At Delpac she again put the head down, worked hard as part of the senior management team and when sales weren’t happening as fast as planned, she took on the added role of regional sales manager for Cork and Kerry. Beatrice proved to be a born salesperson and, with her natural positive attitude and technical background, excelled and became the top salesperson in the company. But the apple never falls far from the tree and Beatrice, like her dad, was destined to become a successful entrepreneur. Her instincts and desire to run her own business were strong and following four great years at Delpac she made the very brave decision to start her own company, Creative Design Ltd, combining her artistic talents, engineering mind and entrepreneurial skills.
Her mission was to help her clients grow their business by strategically positioning their products and services through high-quality packaging design, brochures and other marketing material. She quickly realised that customer service could be a competitive advantage and developed a close relationship with clients, where speed of response and quality of design were of paramount importance.
Creative Design was an outstanding success and over the following eight years Beatrice was sought out by iconic customers such as Kerry Local Authorities, The White Hotel Group and many more. But when their children Patrick, Clodagh and Christopher were small, business took a natural back seat. And just when she was ready to get back on her creative and entrepreneurial journey, illness struck.
Beatrice was unfortunately diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma (LMS), a rare and aggressive cancer. Despite this, she vowed it would not define her life. Always the heart and soul of every gathering, Beatrice was determined to continue life as she had always lived it.
Her creativity and artistic talents were spotted at an early age by the teachers at Castleisland primary school. She had a natural ability to look at an image or scene, save it in her brain and transfer it to canvas. But her artistic talent went far beyond art and paintings, it extended into music and song. A talented musician, she could pick up any instrument and master it. In particular, she was an accomplished guitar and tin whistle player. As a child, she studied piano and achieved Grade 8 standard before the age of ten.
She was also an accomplished singer, and her version of ***Caledonia*** and ***Trouble in the fields*** would give Dolores Keane and Nancy Griffith a run for their money. At the height of her illness, Beatrice found the strength to record an album of her favourite songs, which is available on Spotify.
Always curious, Beatrice constantly sought to expand her horizons – whether through travel or books, reading an average of two books a week – and she was always ready for new adventures to challenge herself. Beatrice even found the time to take flying lessons at Baldonnel Airport, where she learned to fly a Cessna plane!
Beatrice’s warmth, good humour and optimism attracted people to her like the proverbial moth to a flame. But what made Beatrice even more special was her innate ability to know when someone was struggling and when to reach out a hand in friendship. Often it was her ability to just listen without judgement or comment, to let people know she was there if needed, that gave the greatest comfort. Advice was dispensed rarely and wisely.
But if Beatrice loved company, she loved none better than that of her husband and soulmate David and her three amazing children Patrick, Clodagh and Christopher. Family was her priority. To David she was a rock, a best friend, his biggest supporter and a loving partner for over 30 years. Beatrice and David met in O’Flaherty’s pub in Dingle over the August Bank Holiday weekend in 1992. It was obvious from that first encounter that something special was happening and that they would be soulmates for life.
The couple were married in Castleisland Church, Co Kerry on the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1998. David was working in Keenan’s of Borris at the time and, following the wedding, Beatrice moved back to Carlow. Initially they set up home in Beechwood Park in Carlow, but after the birth of their eldest child Patrick they moved to Lower Rossmore, Killeshin in 2000.
To her children, in whom she was so proud and took delight in all their achievements, big and small, Beatrice was the heart and soul of their home. Together with David, she provided her children with love and encouragement, helping them to be the best people they could be and making sure they felt the loving embrace of a happy childhood, just as she had growing up herself.
Beatrice was of the firm opinion that education was the key to a successful career, but she never pushed her children or put pressure on them to achieve. She just wanted them to make the best of their talents and be the best version of themselves. She was delighted when they all did their best in the leaving cert and was immensely proud that all three decided to study engineering at third level – Patrick in UCD studying chemical engineering, Clodagh biomedical engineering in DCU and Christopher just started engineering in DCU also.
She loved nature, seeing the wonder of God’s creation in all things and was recycling 20 years before it was fashionable or urgent. She loved birds and animals and was happiest when she was out on the lawn playing with the family’s two dogs Max and Sky. She also had a special affection for Kitty the cat. In the winter, Beatrice would leave out food for the robins, wagtails and other small birds … she had names on each of them. Her favourite time of year was late spring/early summer and being awakened by the dawn chorus each morning.
Beatrice’s values and her approach to life were firmly grounded in her love of God, the teachings of Jesus Christ and her deep faith. A faith she lived every day. When in a foreign city, she would visit every church to say a prayer, make three wishes and marvel at the wonderful architecture; her favourite being St Mary’s Cathedral in Valencia, where the Holy Grail is on display.
She had a special devotion to St John Paul II and one of her greatest moments was visiting his tomb in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, she was spiritually moved. She also had a special devotion to Padre Pio and received great comfort and healing from touching his relics during her illness.
Her acceptance of God’s will was steadfast, even during the darkest days of her illness. She passionately believed she would see the face of God and that brought her great comfort and strength.
Once she was diagnosed with LMS, Beatrice was immediately thinking of others. She wanted to make sure no other woman had the same experience that she had. She set up the Beatrice Pembroke Walsh Foundation to raise awareness for this extremely rare illness, as well as fundraising for breakthrough research.
Beatrice’s family take comfort and strength from knowing that while Beatrice has gone home to God, her legacy will endure. She continues to live on in each of them and her spirit will never be far from them. She has not gone from them, but before them and they share her belief that they will meet again one day. Until then, they hold fast to the loving and happy memories of times they shared together.
Her requiem Mass was held in the Holy Cross Church, Killeshin on Saturday 8 October at 11am and her burial took place immediately afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.
She is mourned by her husband David, children Patrick, Clodagh and Christopher, parents, brother, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, relatives and friends.
The Month’s Mind Mass for Beatrice takes place in Holy Cross Church, Killeshin on Sunday 13 November at 10.15am.