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Irish charmer helped rebuild Dagenham churchyard

PUBLISHED: 14:39 05 February 2009 | UPDATED: 11:12 11 August 2010

Volunteers Paul Herwig, David Patterson, Brendan and Bill O'Connor

Volunteers Paul Herwig, David Patterson, Brendan and Bill O'Connor

A TRULY inspirational character who helped rebuild Dagenham Churchyard and proved you are never too old to start a new life has died aged 82. Brendan Clooney was a lot of things to many different people but most of his friends remember him as someone with

A TRULY inspirational character who helped rebuild Dagenham Churchyard and proved you are never too old to start a new life has died aged 82.

Brendan Clooney was a lot of things to many different people but most of his friends remember him as someone with a zest for life that put them all to shame.

Up until his death on January 13 he worked tirelessly as a volunteer in the borough's parks with the Wildlife Trust.

He was known for his Irish charm and had the energy of a man half his age, his neighbours including council leader Charles Fairbrass say he will be sorely missed.

Brendan was born in County Kilkenny in Ireland on February 10 1926; he was one of nine siblings.

In his years living near the River Nore a precocious young Brendan spent many hours poaching Salmon.

But when he turned 18 in 1944 he set off for Wales and worked in the coal mines as a young man.

Always hard working, Brendan never complained and his foreman was sorry indeed to see him leave.

He headed to London and ended up working as a Galvaniser for a company in Oxlow Lane, Dagenham.

It was while he was at the bingo in his beloved Dagenham Working Men's Club that he met the love of his life - Hazel.

The two of them were inseparable up until her death from cancer in 2003 and could often be seen on walks together - strolling as far as Romford.

After Hazel passed away Brendan found himself at a loss, he confided in many friends that he had, on several occasions, thought of hitting the whisky bottle.

Brendan's neighbour, Christine Sargeant, of Rainham Road North, said: "He told me he had poured himself a drink after the funeral when the sunlight shone through the window.

"He thought 'pull yourself together and go for a walk' and that's when he met the rangers at The Chase nature reserve.

"He began to volunteer and never looked back.

"Brendan has been such an influence on my life I have decided to start volunteering for the trust in his memory.

"He really was such a lovely man."

Brendan's funeral was on Tuesday January 27 and the little parish church at Dagenham could barely contain all his friends and family.

Ranger, Gareth Winn, paid his respects and said he hoped Brendan's story would inspire other people to volunteer and give their time to a cause that is so rewarding.

Council leader, Charles Fairbrass, said: "Brendan was a true character and is proof that life doesn't finish when you retire.

"If anyone would like to pay their respects to him they should stroll through Dagenham churchyard in springtime and see the wonderful job he did there."

Volunteers can contact Gavin Johnson of the Wildlife Trust on 0208 595 4155 or email wildlife.trust@lbbd.gov.uk.


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