Brendan McStravick: Respected school principal was 'quintessential Lurgan man, Armagh supporter and lover of Ireland and all things Irish'
IT is no exaggeration to say that Brendan McStravick's final journey from St Peter's Church in Lurgan to St Colman's cemetery told the story - all nine decades - of his life.
And it was at needful distance that the communities of the North Circular Road, Shore Road and North Street came out into their gardens and streets to say goodbye to one of their proudest sons.
Born at 6 North Street in December 1935, Brendan was the second son of Cornelius and Ellen McStravick.
Early on the family moved to nearby Shore Road, and then later he and his brothers Joe, Gerry, Gabriel and Paul to Victoria Street.
With the fields and lanes of 'Kilwilke', 'the Tarry' and the Lough shore as his playground, Brendan took the route from Tannaghmore School via a scholarship to St Colman's College, Newry with the advent of the 11-plus examination.
There he continued to develop his skills in Gaelic football from his boyhood Clann Eireann club.
He also expressed his love for music and drama on the stage at Violet Hill and later with the Lurgan Operatic Society chorus; his community spirit in serving St Vincent De Paul.
Brendan qualified as a secondary teacher in English, speech and drama and started his career at the new St Thomas' Intermediate School in west Belfast.
In 1959 he left to become head of English at St Paul's Junior High School in Lurgan.
He was also the school librarian and energetically invested in both roles for those he fondly called 'the boys of Saint Paul's'.
It was in the adjacent Francis Street home of the McLoughlin family that Brendan was first introduced to Elizabeth Diver, a newly-qualified teacher from St Mary's Junior High.
They married in 1964 in Drumcree Parish Church and made their home of 55 years at North Circular Road, a household which would be filled with the voices, laughter and play of their five children, Deirdre, Grainne, Declan, Meabh and Conal.
Brendan served as vice-principal of St Paul's from 1984 to 1993 and was principal from 1993 to 1997.
According to colleagues he discharged his duties with humour and attention to detail.
Alongside duties as assistant secretary and press officer of the Armagh GAA County Board, Brendan also indulged two of his greatest passions, writing and Gaelic football, with regular match reports he penned with Dan McAreavey for the Lurgan and Portadown Examiner.
A parishioner of St Peter's in Lurgan all his life, he read at Mass and served as a Minister of the Eucharist.
Brendan and Elizabeth also helped co-ordinate the Catholic organisation Marriage Encounters and supervised in the conversion of new members to the faith; whilst in latter days they shared in the interdenominational Christian Meditation group, making many friends.
In retirement Brendan advised Bishop Francis Gerard Brooks on diocesan education and advocated for the increased role of lay people and women in the Church.
In lengthy obituaries and poems, he would mark the passing of lives in the Lurgan community and in widely shared paintings and poetry, his travels in Ireland and Europe.
Brendan's final wish to die at home with his family and neighbours close at hand was one he achieved, surrounded with their love, support and care.
His most treasured farewells were the kind attentions, words of praise and furtive cuddles of his 14 grandchildren.
Brendan McStravick died aged 84 on April 1 and at his funeral Mass, Canon Liam Stevenson described him as "the quintessential Lurgan man, Armagh supporter and lover of Ireland and all things Irish".
A memorial Mass is planned for future times when friends, family and the wider community can come together to celebrate Brendan's life.