Belfast Telegraph

Sad farewell to teacher and GAA player Charlene Griffiths

By Brendan McDaid

A GAA player who lost her battle with cancer at the age of 27 brought joy into the lives of everybody she met, mourners at her funeral heard.

The congregation was told how Charlene Griffiths had lived life to the full and was "like a mother hen" to the Steelstown Brian Og ladies team she captained.

As the funeral cortege arrived at St Brigid's Church in Charlene's native Carnhill yesterday, pupils from the school where she taught lined up alongside girls from Brian Og's GAA club to form a guard of honour.

They were joined by cheerleaders from Galaxy GTC, who were also tutored by Charlene.

Relatives, friends and colleagues packed into the aisles and lined the walls of the chapel, with hundreds more gathered outside as Charlene's fiancé Simon Collins and her relatives carried her coffin into the church.

A relative carried a large picture of the popular teacher behind the coffin.

Charlene died in the early hours of Saturday at Altnagelvin Hospital after a nine-month battle with cancer.

Fr Chris Ferguson, who visited Charlene frequently during her treatment at Altnagelvin, told the congregation that Charlene had been a brave and feisty character who brought "so much joy" to the lives of those she came into contact with.

Fr Ferguson said: "If there ever was a person who could have claimed to have lived life to the full, it was Charlene."

The priest related how her story had been unique from the beginning.

He said her mother Majella was rushed to hospital in Dublin on returning from a visit to Lourdes to be told that one of her twins had died but that the other was still alive, with Charlene being born shortly afterwards.

Speaking about her early life, he said: "She loved being out and about and hated being called in for her dinner because she knew she wouldn't be allowed out again.

"She was always on the go. She had so much energy

"As Charlene grew older she embraced her love of Irish sport and culture.

"She went to St Mary's in Belfast to train as a teacher and taught in Ballycastle and Strabane."

Fr Ferguson said Charlene was given the nickname 'Mother Steelstown' through her work with Brian Og's in the Steelstown area.

"She was like a mother hen, she looked out for everybody and especially the newer members in the squad," he added.

"She was a battler. Some might even say feisty."

The priest spoke of Charlene's commitment to her loved ones.

"At the heart of her life was her love and devotion to her family. Every day after work she stopped off to see her nephews and nieces," he said.

He added that as she battled her illness, her family and fiancé remained a constant presence at Charlene's side.

"The friendships she forged and treasured became vital lifelines during her illness," he said.

"Her impact and the love she shared will refuse to allow her memory to die."

Prayers were said during the service for the nursing staff at the Sperrin unit in Altnagelvin Hospital who had cared for Charlene.

Burial took place afterwards at Derry's City Cemetery.

Belfast Telegraph

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