BEAUTIFUL stories and amusing anecdotes filled the walls of the Sacred Heart Church as Stephen McKenna, described as ‘one of ‘Omagh’s most creative characters’, was laid to rest.
During the Requiem Mass, which took place yesterday (Wednesday), the unique life and legacy of the school teacher, historian, entertainer, community worker and newspaper columnist was recounted to the large congregation in loving and light-hearted fashion – a fitting reflection of the Omagh wordsmith’s famous wit, humour, and intelligence.
Early in the funeral service, concelebrated by Fr Eugene Hasson and Fr Donal Bennett, Stephen’s family presented symbols of the storyteller’s life that were important to him.
These included a book by Omagh-born author Benedict Kiely of whom Stephen was a great friend; a pen box to represent the pen which Stephen oft used when writing his masterpieces; and a beautiful portrait photograph of Stephen taken by the late Jackie Sloan.
Another symbol presented was a copy of the UH, in which Stephen wrote his popular ‘As The Man Says’ column.
Under the pseudonym, Raymond Na Hatta, the weekly column ran in this paper for more an incredible 50 years, beginning in September 1968 and finishing in December 2018.
Among those who paid heartfelt tribute during the service was Stephen’s cousin, Roddy Hackett.
“What can one say about Stephen?” he asked. “To me, Stephen was a man of success who has filled his niche and accomplished his talents.
“He lived well, laughed often, and leaves the world a better place than he found it.
“I think of him as living in the hearts of those he touched; his friendship has multiplied the good and divided the evil.
“He said that if life must not be taken too seriously, then neither should death, and if people remember him as a good teacher, that would be his greatest honour.
“As someone once said, Stephen loved Omagh, and Omagh loved Stephen.”
Parish priest, Fr Hasson, praised Stephen’s fervent Catholic faith and devotion to his hometown.
“We have come together today to give thanks for one of Omagh’s most creative characters,” Fr Hasson said.
“Stephen was indeed a gifted and intelligent man, who used these talents to support the community.
“I have no doubt that everyone has their own story to tell of Stephen, and it’s important that these stories are shared to keep his spirit alive.”
Stephen McKenna was predeceased by his parents, the late Kathleen and Cornelius McKenna.
His death is deeply regretted by his sorrowing cousins, Rodrick Hackett, Catherine (Gay), Brigid (Mellon), Margaret Hackett, Monica McNamee and their extended families.
Funeral arrangements were carried out by O’Kane Bros Ltd. Interment in Greenhill Cemetery followed Requiem Mass.