Una McElhone:'What she lacked in stature she made up for in her immeasurable heart'
IN her short 62 years, Una McElhone lived a rich and full life.
In earlier years she worked in the old Gallahers factory in Ballymena, though her love of caring and nurturing children led her to qualify as a classroom assistant, working in Kilronan school where she spent many happy times.
In 1977, at the tender age of 19, she married the love of her life, Philip McElhone, after they met at Ardboe dance hall in Co Tyrone.
Before Philip bought his first car, he would grab a lift to Toome to see his “wee Una”, often leaving him having to walk back to his native Moneymore that evening.
Philip would tease that he never remembered proposing but, six weeks into their courtship, the story was that Una told him to pick her up in the morning as they were going to look at a ring.
It wasn’t long until the happy couple were blessed with six children to whom Una dedicated herself entirely, even more so with the arrival of eight grandchildren.
At the same time she was an adoring daughter to Annie, with whom she had a very special bond.
She treasured and embraced every moment in her family’s lives – big and small – and made sure to enjoy lots of holidays with them all.
Not wanting to waste a minute, Una and Philip travelled the globe together.
Una encouraged all her children to see the world, even if it left her heart aching being such a great distance from them.
True to form, however, she wouldn’t allow such a situation to persist and tried to follow them wherever they went.
Una truly was a social butterfly and made friends wherever she went.
People were instantly drawn to her high energy and fun-loving nature which could reach across great distances and create unforgettable bonds.
On one occasion, whilst walking down a street in Mornington, Victoria in Australia, a man stopped her and said “Una, is that you?”, turning out to be one half of an Australian couple she and Philip met on a trip to Mexico a few years earlier.
Of course, none of this surprised Philip who would regularly joke that Una would make friends on day one of a trip and they’d be stuck with them for the rest of the holiday.
Perhaps she was so well able to connect and draw people to her as a result of her wonderful ability to listen.
Indeed, she was able to rely on this natural talent in pursuing her qualification as a counsellor – one of her proudest achievements.
Not only was Una a great absorber of emotion, she was equally generous and got so much out of giving.
She never let her children want for anything and even beyond the family circle, you daren’t mention that you needed anything as she would have it ordered, bought and delivered the following day.
She would be the first to admit that cooking wasn’t her strong point – “that’s Phil’s department” would be her retort – but while her husband would be busy cooking dinner on a Sunday for 19 hungry mouths, Una would be on the floor playing with her grandchildren, setting up a painting station or playing fancy dress, always welcoming the mess being left in the wake of it all so long as she could witness the joy on their faces.
Una’s greatest legacy is the lifetime of incredible memories she has left for her husband, children and grandchildren.
There really was no one like her. What she lacked in stature she made up for in her immeasurable heart.
With these amazing memories she will live forever in our hearts.
“Love your family. Spend time, be kind and serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised and today is short."
Una McElhone (née Quinn), of Cargin, Co Antrim, died on June 24 after a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. Predeceased by her daughter Collette, she is survived her her husband Philip, children Shaun, Julie, Fiona, Clair-Frances and David and mother Annie.