THE late Leo Creery has been described by those who knew him as a “beacon of compassion and care”.
The 89-year-old, who was well known for his active involvement with the St Peter’s parish, died peacefully last Thursday (January 5) at his home in Rosemount.
Born in Omagh in 1922, Leo was the eldest of eight children.
He moved to Lurgan with his siblings and parents James and Elizabeth, in 1937 and settled on the Lough Road.
He was educated in the Christian Brothers in Drogheda and after a spell teaching in the local Technical College, he took on a management position with a wine and spirit merchants in Holywood, County Down.
Much to the dismay of his mother at this time, Leo announced that he wished to take up a new job. He told his parents he wanted to become a lorry driver with a relatively unheard of company in Northern Ireland – Coca Cola.
Persuaded by his friend Terence Robinson, Leo joined Coca Cola as it took over a coopers yard in Rumford Street in Belfast and installed a new bottling plant.
Now Leo the salesman was born.
He drove his lorry around every corner, of every county and as his storytelling ability increased so did his sales.
Before long, Coca Cola had expanded into Dublin and Cork and Leo’s ill fated career decision was proving to be quite an astute one.
The development of Coca Cola wasn’t the only thing on Leo’s mind at this time.
At a dance in the LCA, in Lurgan, Leo met a young woman called Brid.
Brid’s story perhaps proves that fate can play a part in all our lives. Brid’s father was from Forkhill, in South Armagh and he travelled to County Limerick to take up a teaching position.
Brid, born in County Limerick, travelled back to Armagh to also take up a teaching position, in St Michael’s Grammar school in Lurgan.
The girl who reversed her father’s footsteps had caught Leo’s eye and they married in the Pro Cathedral, Dublin in 1952.
Having settled in Lurgan, Leo was to become a proud father to his three daughters, Nuala, Aideen and Leonie.
His pride in all their achievements was often quite immodest. He openly shared with his family how proud he was of each of them. His love and affection for his children was as natural as his ability to extol their virtues.
Leo had many interests and hobbies.
He loved technology. He embraced every new gadget and gizmo with huge eagerness.
He even scared the residents of Rosemount when he first installed his new satellite dish. The first night he changed the channel, the dish revolved and some of his neighbours thought it was a UFO.
St Peter’s Parish Priest Monsignor Hamill said: “He was the only 88-year-old who could Skype, tune into the parish mass on the internet and listen to the parish radio at the same time.”
However, Leo will long be remembered for his great vision, foresight and clarity of thought.
Although he set up the first cinematography club in Lurgan with Tommy McConville and his brother Chris and was involved in establishing Lurgan Credit Union, it was in business that he excelled.
In 1988 he was awarded the freedom of Craigavon Council and in 2000 he was awarded the MBE for his contribution to the economic development of Brownlow.
“His vision in promoting growth and community development to the Craigavon area was testament to the values he held throughout his life,” said Monsignor Hamill.
“Namely honesty, hard work and a disposition to help those in most need.”
His grandchildren were also very special to him. The name “Dan” meant more to Leo than it did the children.
This term of endearment held a special place in his heart. His pride in their growth and development filled him with immense delight and joy. Watching his grandchildren grow kept him young at heart and allowed him to use his favourite phrase, “I’m not being nosy – I just care!”
Leo showed complete devotion to his wife Brid over the past ten years.
Her illness may have shadowed her responses, but Leo’s unequivocal dedication to her well-being was a beacon in compassion and care.
Leo’s family expressed thanks to all the carers from Anne’s Home Care, the doctors and all the staff of the Old School House, Antrim Road, for all their attention to his medical care and needs.
Speaking at the funeral on Saturday, Monsignor Hamill said: “Today we are here to pay our respects to Leo Creery.
“A husband, father and grandfather who inspired so many people in what was a very long and happy life.
“Leo’s life can be reflected with much fondness, devotion and love.
“While it is natural that we mourn his passing, we should also reflect on a life fulfilled with so many things that made him and those close to him very happy.”
Leo is survived by wife Brid, daughters Aideen and Leonie, sons-in-law Joe, Hugh and Gerard, sisters Eileen and Colette, and brother Des.
He is also survived by grandchildren Conor, Niamh, Claire, Meabh, Luke, Eimear and Christopher.