December 2, 2023

Audrey Mary Barrett (57), late of Mantlin Road, Kesh, passed away peacefully on February 25 at Springlawn Nursing Home, Omagh.

Describing her beloved sister as “very outgoing and very independent”, Eileen Armstrong said that Audrey always “enjoyed life to the full”

Along with her six siblings, Audrey grew up at Killymendon, Ballinamallard. She attended Killadeas Special Care School and later Killadeas Adult Centre. It was at Killadeas where she was encouraged to develop her sports potential, and this led to her competing in Special Olympics.

“She trained at the Lakeland Forum in Enniskillen and we are very grateful for her coaches, whose dedication helped her to excel,” said Eileen.

The earliest record of Audrey taking part in Special Olympics competition was in 1984, where she achieved silver medals in standing long jump and the relay race.

Later that year, she was part of the Gymnastics Display Team at the opening of the Bawnacre Centre in Irvinestown.

Over the years, Audrey travelled to Antrim Forum and Dublin on many occasions. She competed in Special Olympics Northern Ireland (NI), where she gained 13 gold, 13 silver and five bronze medals in various gymnastic disciplines.

In Special Olympics National Games, she won four gold, four silver and three bronze medals.

Audrey represented NI at the UK Special Olympics in Brighton in 1986. She participated in floor exercises, vault and beam, where she won two golds and one bronze medal.

Talking about Audrey’s biggest achievement, Eileen said: “Audrey was delighted to be selected to represent Ireland at the International Summer Special Olympic Games in South Bend, Indiana, USA, in 1987.

“She was accompanied by my mum and younger brother, Carl, while my sister, Joan, along with her family, travelled from Florida to watch Audrey compete and win a bronze medal in floor exercises.

“That was a big event for her,” she added, noting how several celebrities opened the games, including Barbara Mandrell, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Whitney Houston.

“Another highlight was when she competed in the Special Olympics European Games in the Netherlands in 2000, where she represented Ireland in 10-pin bowling,” said Eileen, noting that Audrey won a bronze medal in both the individual and team event.

Audrey continued to compete and win medals up until 2004. In latter years, Audrey lived with Eileen at Kesh and enjoyed staying with her brothers and sisters at weekends.

“She just enjoyed participating in the family events, and loved all the wee ones,” said Eileen.

Following the closure of Killadeas Adult Centre, Audrey attended Kesh Day Care Centre. She did placements at Trunk Flooring, and she worked a day a week in the Mace shop in Kesh, where she enjoyed the fun and banter with the rest of the staff.

“She kept them up to date with all the soaps and TV programmes,” said Eileen, adding that Audrey also completed many adult learning courses through the day centre and local college, achieving a number of certificates.

Loved music

Alongside her hobbies of reading and watching the soaps on TV, Audrey loved music. “Her favourite artist was Michael Jackson. She just was his number-one fan. She also loved ABBA, and The Carpenters.

“She was always playing music and dancing,” said Eileen, explaining that the family chose to play some of Audrey’s favourite songs at her funeral.

“Before the coffin left the funeral home, we played a Michael Jackson song, which was lovely, and when she left the church, we played ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA.”

“So she had a good send-off,” she added.

Repeating the words of the Rev. Abraham Storey, officiating minister at Audrey’s funeral, Eileen said: “Audrey, the wee girl from Kesh, achieved a lot more in her life than the rest of us could ever dream of.”

Audrey had good health throughout her life until she began taking seizures in 2013, and shortly after was diagnosed with dementia.

When she eventually required full-time medical care, Audrey moved into Drumclay Nursing Home in Enniskillen. When it closed, she went on to live in Springlawn Nursing Home in Omagh, where she remained until her death.

“As a family, we are very appreciative of how well she was looked after in the care homes in which she lived following her dementia diagnosis,” said Eileen.

The family are also very grateful for all the support they have received following her passing.

Arranged by Keith Elliott of W. T. Morrison Funeral Directors, Audrey’s funeral service took place at Ardess Parish Church on Monday, February 27, followed by burial in the adjoining churchyard.

Audrey is lovingly remembered by her family.

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