Stasia McCollam: Force of nature in border village was an inspiration to the end
STASIA McCollam was very much a 'doer' not a 'sayer' throughout her long and productive life.
For almost a quarter of a century she effectively ran the little surgery in Belleek on the Fermanagh/Donegal border where her husband Jim was the doctor.
A bundle of energy, Stasia was the practice nurse and much more besides - she answered the phones, did the paperwork, and generally ensured it was a well-oiled operation.
Away from work, she was a force of nature too.
As well as raising a family, she sewed, knitted, restored furniture, built a hen house, mended shoes, painted and decorated, gardened, grew vegetables, cooked and also managed to look after everybody else when needed.
If anyone in the family or community faced a crisis, she was first person there.
Even coming up on 90 she was still the named person for neighbours' alarms, an indication of the great respect she garnered throughout her life.
Stasia was born in 1920 in Bonniconlon in Co Mayo, one of a family of five girls and three boys to Thomas Ferguson and Bella Murphy.
She followed her two elder sisters, Evelyn and Moira, to Yorkshire at 17 to train as a nurse and was working as a district midwife in Lancashire when she met Dr Jim McCollam at a hospital party on VE Day in 1945.
They were married the following year and shortly afterwards Jim was posted to Germany with the Royal Army Medical Corps.
She and their baby Catherine joined him there in 1948, with their second child, Tommy, born in Hanover.
However, on discharge from the army the family returned to Ireland.
Jim did a locum for Dr Tommy Wilson in Belleek and liked it so much he never left, with the house opposite the surgery on Cliff Road becoming the family home.
Stasia worked there from 1949, and later in the new health centre across the road.
They established the practice at the very beginning of the NHS and had many patients across the border before most of the roads were blown up or blocked.
After retirement in 1983, Stasia and Jim moved to Corry and enjoyed many happy years playing bridge, golfing in Bundoran, visiting family, baby sitting and travelling, until Jim's death in 2002.
Stasia continued to be very active, including driving her car just that little bit too fast, well into her nineties.
She fought hard against her increasing loss of independence but eventually conceded with love and grace and was a joy and an inspiration to her family right up to her very last moment.
Anastasia McCollam died on June 1. Predeceased by her husband Jim and son John, she is survived by her children Catherine, Tommy, Margaret and Kathleen and sisters Peggy and Avila.