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Grieving families and friends can't properly mourn devoted couple

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Willie Gavigan died within a few days of his loving partner Jean Newman

Willie Gavigan died within a few days of his loving partner Jean Newman

Willie Gavigan died within a few days of his loving partner Jean Newman

The families of a popular midlands couple who died just three days apart are coming to terms with having to hold their funerals without their many friends in attendance because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Former publican Willie Gavigan (69), from Tyrrellspass in Co Westmeath, and his partner Jean Newman (61), from Dalystown in Mullingar, are being mourned by their wide circle of family and friends.

Peacefully

Mr Gavigan, who for years ran Willie's Bar in Tyrrellspass until his retirement a few years ago, died peacefully at Tallaght Hospital last Thursday. His private funeral took place on Monday.

He had endured a long illness and is survived by his brothers John, Ger and Brendan, and sisters Lena, Jo, Madeleine and Rosaleen.

It is understood that Willie's fiancee Jean, who was undergoing treatment for cancer, took the news of his death badly and died on Saturday.

Her private funeral is due to take place in the coming days. Her remains are to be buried with Willie's. Neither death is Covid-19 related.

Willie's sister Madeleine paid tribute to both her brother and his partner.

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Jean Newman died within a few days of partner Willie Gavigan

Jean Newman died within a few days of partner Willie Gavigan

Jean Newman died within a few days of partner Willie Gavigan

"It was like they couldn't live without each other," she said.

"Willie was in the pub business for 54 years and was greatly respected by locals and visitors as a gentleman.

"He was generous and helpful and had an eye for situations where he could make life easier for others."

Willie was described as a keen GAA man, and helped the local club in Tyrrellspass when they bought and set up their grounds.

He developed cancer seven years ago and had life-changing surgery but continued having a hand in the business until the cancer returned.

Madeleine said Jean and Willie had known each other for 45 years.

"They got engaged many years ago but never got around to getting married. Jean was warm, outgoing and friendly, and she helped others in any way she could," said Madeleine.

Jean developed cancer six months ago and had undergone treatment last Thursday.

Then on hearing of Willie's death she took ill and was readmitted to hospital but died on Saturday.

"The families and the villages are stunned and shocked and grieving deeply at our inability to express our sorrow due to the Covid-19 restrictions which are so vital at this time," said Madeleine.

A post on the Facebook page from the management of Willie's and The Barn pub announced "with great sadness" the passing of Mr Gavigan.

"While Willie retired a few years back, his name remains over the door and he will be greatly missed by both our staff and customers and the many people he had a kind word for over his many years," the post reads.

"Our sympathies to Jean and the Gavigan family and while we can't raise a glass to him this evening, let's hope we will be able to in the near future."

Sympathies

The post was then amended after Jean's death.

"Unfortunately we have to update this post to let you know that Jean has followed Willie to her eternal resting place. Our deepest sympathies to the Newman family. May they both rest in peace together forever," it reads.

Jean is survived by her brothers Tom and Bernie and her sister Maire Mulrooney.

Owing to restrictions surrounding Covid-19 it is not possible for the families to hold traditional funerals.

Funeral masses will be held at a future date.