Joe McAloone: Love of land was core to charismatic 'ministry man'
STANDING over six feet tall, Joe McAloone was a big man in every sense.
During his 97 years on this earth his generosity, humanity and wry humour touched a great many lives.
A good steak, a glass of Powers and rich conversation liberally interspersed with Irish poetry and prose are the source of many happy memories for Joe's family and friends; young and old.
A resident of Belfast for over half a century, Joe was a Fermanagh man at heart and love of the land was core to his being.
Born in Derrylin in 1921, fourth of seven children to Annie and Peter McAloone, throughout his teenage years he was an active member of Teemore Shamrocks – the beginning of a lifelong passion for the GAA and Irish culture.
In the late 1930s he joined the then Ministry of Agriculture. Based in Co Tyrone for over 30 years, he knew every farmer, road, nook and cranny of the area and everyone knew him.
A charismatic visionary, Joe founded the Killeter agricultural show and was delighted to return to participate in celebrations marking its 50th year. Testimony to his pivotal role, he was heralded in on a horse-drawn carriage.
He was also a highly respected member of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society for over half a century and a familiar face at the Balmoral Show.
Also a stalwart of the Ulster Grassland Society, until recently he regularly mobilised others to join him for farm visits and the annual outing to the National Ploughing Championship in Mullingar, Tullamore and other tilled furrows across Ireland.
After a distinguished career with the Department of Agriculture which took him from Tyrone to headquarters in Dundonald House, Belfast, Joe retired in 1983.
He was fond of dancing and loved music and it was apt that he met the great love of his life, Kathleen, at a dance in Strabane.
A handsome couple, they married in 1951 and had five children. Kathleen died in 1996 but Joe's love for her was palpable to the end of his days.
A people person, Joe had good friends from many walks of life. He enjoyed visiting others and being visited himself.
A big handsome man with a thick head of hair, he was always impeccably dressed no matter the occasion; he even kept his shirt and tie on to cut the hedges.
Joe was always surrounded by books, newspapers and crosswords. Perhaps it was the reading, or perhaps it was in his genes, but he had a phenomenal memory for people, places and dates.
He also had a healthy disrespect for local politics and could converse on any subject from poetry to international politics or from which county your name originated.
In their younger days his children thought that everyone used their holidays as an opportunity to examine dry stone walls and visit graveyards with the purpose of finding Irish writers.
In his later years Joe was apt to grumble about the limits imposed by “the petticoat government” but clearly revelled in the attention and care that his family provided.
His response to technology was to leave his mobile phone in the boot of his car. But he loved that you could contact people by text, which he referred to as ‘tic-tacking'. In his final months he also had a growing fondness for that “yoke” with the internet that played the music from his younger days.
A committed Catholic and regular at daily Mass in St Anne's in Finaghy, Joe attributed his strong faith as the source of great strength and solace throughout his life.
He died peacefully surrounded by his family on December 27 2017 and was laid to rest beside his beloved wife Kathleen and grandson Paul in Milltown Cemetery.
He is survived by his children Peter, Aidan, Deirdre, Mary and Paula, sister Brigid and six grandchildren.