OBITUARY: Rita Hearty was dedicated to her family and had a strong religious faith

Rita Hearty (nee Shevlin) (1940 - 2020)

OBITUARY: Rita Hearty was dedicated to her family and had a strong religious faith

Rita Hearty (nee Shevlin), Cherryvale, Bay Estate, Dundalk who died peacefully after a short illness, surrounded by her loving family at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital on Sunday 28th June 2020. Rita was the third eldest of seven children (five boys and two girls) of Harry and Elizabeth Shevlin, Glen Road, Belfast.

Rita was predeceased by her loving husband Mattie (November 2019) parents Harry and Elizabeth, brothers Brian, Harry, Arthur and godson Tony.

Born in Andersonstown Park on 27th April 1940, Rita was christened Margaret Shevlin, however with her Mum Liz eager for her not to be nicknamed Maggie or Mags, her name was quickly shortened to Rita, and Rita Shevlin was how she was known from that point onwards.

Rita attended St Teresa’s and Rathmore Schools in Belfast and upon leaving school went on to complete a secretarial and administration course, and worked with various companies in Belfast including Sankey Sheldon, BL Film Company and Hire Purchase Company of Northern Ireland before getting married and moving to Dundalk.

Rita met her beloved husband of 49 years Mattie Hearty in Maxim’s dance hall in Belfast in the late 60’s, marrying in Church of the Sacred Heart in Cloghogue, Newry in August 1970 before setting up a loving family home in Cherryvale, Bay Estate, with sons Patrick and David, and daughter Lisa.

Rita and her husband Mattie, the absolute love of Rita’s life, enjoyed a very happy life together, they were inseparable and whether it was a spin into town for lunch in McGeoughs or Conlons Food Hall in the Long Walk , or to get some messages in Dunnes or Tesco; a shopping trip to Newry or a day trip by train to Dublin or Dun Laoghaire they simply loved each other’s company.

Rita and Mattie particularly enjoyed their numerous holidays to Salou and the Costa del Sol, or a short stay in The Downings in Donegal during their years together.

When Mattie suffered some ill health seven years ago, following his discharge from hospital, Rita devoted herself to nursing him back to health and thanks to her care and devotion, Mattie recovered to enjoy a good quality of life until his passing in November last.

Rita was truly dedicated to her children, grandchildren and daughters in law.

Nothing was too much trouble and she was known to cook three different dinners on particular days to keep everyone happy. Rita quite simply adored all of her Grandchildren, each and every one of them were her pride and joy.

There was generally always a photo book in her handbag with photos of the grandchildren which would be produced on the bus to or from town, in the hairdressers or at functions where she’d proudly show off photos of the grandchildren. The grandchildren simply loved spending time with their Nannie, whether it be a baking day or movie day in Cherryvale, a trip to the cinema or to Smyths Toyshop or a shopping trip into the Marshes.

The grandkids were always guaranteed to come home with a smile on their faces, with a present of some kind and a lot more sugar in their systems. Rita also took great pleasure from her visits to Patrick and Elaine’s house in Park Avenue or David and Anita’s house in Kingswood, and would be generous in her gratitude to Elaine or Anita for the hospitality shown or for a meal provided.

Rita and her daughter Lisa were best friends and shopping buddies, and while Mattie sat and watched sport on TV, they would be off on trips to the Marshes, Newry, Belfast or Dublin shopping.

Rita was an excellent homemaker and the epitome of an Irish mother.

She was also a great seamstress and put her skills to good use down through the years; whether it was making curtains for house or for behind the altar when mass was held in the Bay Estate school hall, mending altar linens or making football flags.

However, Rita really loved and excelled at home baking; she had a huge book of recipes that she had garnered over the years; full of hand written recipes, cuttings from magazines, newspapers and food packaging.

She baked so many sweet and savoury dishes, but was particularly famous far and wide for her apple tarts and German biscuits (the recipe for which she inherited from her godmother Teasie McCormick).

Rita was a lady of strong faith and attended daily Mass in the Church of the Holy Family for many years, firstly in the “old” Chapel and subsequently in the “new” Chapel. In the days before mobile phones and meeting for coffee, the daily walk to and from mass was where she caught up with friends and fellow parishioners.

When growing up Rita’s children and all visitors to Cherryvale were always sure to get blessed with holy water as they left the house. Rita was heavily involved in the Holy Family Parish and performed various roles throughout the years such as Eucharistic Minister, member of the altar preparation team, the parish choir and weekly envelope collection count team.

Rita and her husband Mattie had many great friends down through the years and enjoyed a Saturday night out meeting up with friends in The Fane, The Vinegarmans, Derryhale or perhaps The Windsor.

Whilst Rita spent nearly 50 happy years in Dundalk, she never lost touch with her roots in Belfast, keeping in touch with family regularly by phone and in the days before mobile phones and even before there was a landline phone in Cherryvale, it was a trip to a local phone kiosk with a pocket full of coins to catch up on all the news and check on the well-being of relatives. Rita relished her visits to Belfast to visit the Shevlin family connection, a week at Easter, weeks in the Summer and countless weekends throughout each year.

A family woman to the core, family was key in Rita’s life and she lived for her husband, children, grandchildren and daughters-in-law. Indeed, as long as her family were healthy and happy, Rita was happy.

A lady in the true sense of the word, Rita was such a social and friendly person, and would always have a big broad smile on her face as she greeted people. Rita would give you the last euro from her purse, the last stitch off her back and the last crumb off her plate, the most selfless, self-sacrificing, generous and gentle soul you could ever encounter.

Rita had her fair share of sadness down the years, in addition to losing her father Harry and mother Liz, she had to bear the loss of her brother Brian in tragic accident, and brothers Harry and Arthur, and more recently her Godson Tony, all of which impacted on Rita greatly.

In recent times Rita cherished the weekly visits from her sister Betty and brothers Eddie and Paul looking through old photos and reliving the Glen Road of the 1950s. Rita equally treasured weekly visits from Mattie’s sister Annie and her husband Matt.

Rita was a generous auntie and Godmother to her nieces, nephews and godchildren, never missing a birthday and she will be sadly missed by them all.

When Rita fell ill last year she was cared for so selflessly by her daughter Lisa.

Already suffering illness, herself when Rita’s husband Mattie passed away in November, it devastated her, but she found an unbelievable strength to carry on for 7 months, and passed away knowing that Mattie would be there to greet her on her final journey.

A beloved wife and cherished Mum/Mum-in-law and adored Nannie, Rita is survived by her sons Patrick and David, daughter Lisa, brothers Eddie and Paul, and sister Betty, daughter’s in-law Elaine and Anita, grandchildren Nathan, Emma, Niamh, Eimear, Sarah, Evan and Áine, brothers and sisters in-law, nephews, nieces, extended family relatives, neighbours and wonderful friends.

Having reposed at her residence Rita’s remains were taken to Church of the Holy Family where requiem mass was celebrated by Fr. Cormac McNamara.

Readings were delivered by grandson Nathan and granddaughter Emma. Prayers of intercession were led by grandchildren Sarah, Evan and Áine Hearty, brother Paul Shevlin, godson Mark Shevlin, goddaughter Orla Shevlin and niece Ann Rogers.

Gifts that symbolised Rita’s life were presented at the start of the requiem mass by grandchildren Nathan, Emma, Niamh, Eimear, Sarah, Evan and Áine Hearty. These included Rita’s recipe book, sewing box, rolling pin, Nannie mug, scarf, grandchildren cushion, a photo of her seven grandchildren.

A eulogy and reflection honouring Rita was given by son David Hearty. Beautiful music was provided by soloist Roisin Crawley and organist Olivia Finnegan, and Rita’s Granddaughters Niamh and Eimear Hearty performed a poignant acoustic version of Falling Slowly before the final blessing.

After the funeral Mass, Rita’s remains were carried from the church to the beautiful refrain of her favourite song the Green Glens of Antrim, and interment took place in St. Fursey's Cemetery, Haggardstown.

The large attendance along the route to and outside the Chapel and at her interment was testament to the affection and regard in which Rita was held by so many.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.