Annie McGarrity: Her motto was 'Divide small and serve all'
ANNIE McGarrity’s life was one of grace, kindness and enduring trust in God.
A teacher in the same Co Tyrone primary school for 41 years, she was also a mother-of-nine and children were always close to her heart.
Born in Beaghmore On August 27 1932, Annie was the third child of Peter Loughran and his wife Sarah Ann and attended Strawmacklemartin School in Meenascallagh during the austere years of the Second World War.
Her lively mind ensured a boarding place at Loreto Convent School, Omagh and she would fondly recall the creativity of neighbour Ita Loughran, who made her a beautiful dressing gown from a red blanket, even trimming the lapels with binding.
Such acts of kindness helped inspire a life-long passion for charitable work and dressmaking.
Annie earned a scholarship to train as a teacher in Belfast and in 1954 was appointed an infant teacher in the old St Mary’s PS in the chapel grounds of Dunamore.
Many children from her very first class, now grandparents of current pupils, attended her wake and funeral.
Under the judicious direction of Mary B Conway, and alongside Sr Ita McKenna and Frank Brady, her skills and enthusiasm blossomed.
In 1963, a new St Mary's opened its doors a stone’s throw away and from then, Annie would specialise in Primary Four teaching.
In August of that year, a new door also opened in her own life when she married John McGarrity, a builder from Beaghbeg. They built a bungalow in Dunamore and raised nine children.
Ever pragmatic, Annie's motto around the family table was "Divide small and serve all!”.
In school, she always tried to evoke a sense of wonder.
Her nature table was replenished regularly, prompting classroom discussions such as “Why are thrushes’ eggs blue?”. God’s creation was celebrated by singing Cecil Alexander’s All Things Bright and Beautiful.
Her love of theatre saw her attend the Carrickmore Drama Festival annually with her family; adapting the P4 Christmas play, writing sketches and preparing Kildress Wolfe Tones entrants for the recitation category of Scór na nÓg and Scór Sinsear.
Poetry was another of her great loves, with past pupils remembering the eerie captivation of Walter de la Mare’s The Listeners and the childish wonder of Where Go the Boats? by RL Stevenson.
The times tables, meanwhile, were made relevant in her corner grocery shop. Fitness and fair play were championed in her teaching of netball.
In 1965, a branch of the Apostolic Work was established in Kildress parish and Annie was elected treasurer, a role she would hold for more than 50 years.
She attended weekly gatherings to make vestments and altar linens for the missions and helped organise fundraising to build churches, schools and clinics, and provide food and medicine.
Her contribution was acknowledged by diocesan president Jean Hanratty, who attended her funeral and wrote to comfort her family.
Her strong faith also led her to promote the Sacred Heart Messenger magazine in the Dunamore area for 35 years.
In 1995, Annie retired as vice-principal of St Mary’s.
She enjoyed time in Donegal and new hobbies, such as making kombucha tea - a fermented drink she read about in Anne Hailes’ health column in The Irish News.
Annie also enjoyed baking and sewing for her family, repairing and altering garments and even surprising grandchildren with home-made duvet covers and matching pillow cases in bright colours, as well as fancy dress for Halloween.
She spent many happy days with her 25 grandchildren, encouraging and supporting them in their interests.
May she inspire others to treasure the simple things in life and find fulfilment in what they do.
Annie McGarrity died aged 84 on July 31. She is survived by her husband John and children Sean, Joseph, Malachy, Ursula, Colette, Maeve, Briege, Brian and Claire, brothers Mickey and Pete, sister Rosie Mossey (Gortin) and family circle.