Belfast Telegraph

'One of saddest days Clady's ever seen' as schoolboy John Joe (11) laid to rest

By Rachel Martin

Mourners at the funeral of 11-year-old John Joe Toner were told how the prayers of those who joined vigils would help carry the family through their darkest hours following the sudden death of their son.

John Joe, from Clady, Co Armagh, passed away in hospital on St Valentine's Day, almost a week after he fell ill at school on February 9.

Hundreds attended the Requiem Mass yesterday at St Michael's Chapel in Clady, where school friends formed a choir to say farewell to their former classmate.

The boy collapsed at St Malachy's Primary School. It is believed he may have suffered a heart attack. It is understood he was born with a heart condition.

John Joe was taken to hospital in Belfast, but died on Tuesday evening.

Friends and supporters of the family held vigils across Armagh as well-wishers prayed for John Joe to make a full recovery.

The community was left devastated when the 11-year-old passed away.

Many took to social media to pay tribute to the boy, and a prayer service was held in John Joe's memory and to support his family on Wednesday at St Malachy's Church in Ballymoyer.

His family said people's prayers had helped ease some of their heartbreak.

Father Murphy, who said Requiem Mass, added: "The family would like to thank everyone who gave their prayers in the parish and from other parishes.

"People were praying that he would get better, but the family realise that those prayers will carry them through his death and they say they have been of great comfort. They are also very thankful for the care he received from the paramedics and at the children's ward at the Royal Victoria Hospital."

John Joe's family asked for donations to the Clark Clinic at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in lieu of flowers.

SDLP councillor Sharon Haughey-Grimley, also from Clady, attended the funeral.

She said the church was filled to capacity, with many mourners waiting outside the chapel to pay their respects.

"The service was very reflective of how well-loved John Joe was," she added.

"It was one of the saddest days the Clady community has ever had to experience.

"John Joe was very well-known and well-loved in the community.

"He was a very happy child and was an altar server and was also involved in the local football team in Clady."

In a statement, Loughgilly Parish said: "The prayer vigils that have been held will now be the greatest of comfort and support to all John Joe's family and friends in the coming days.

"May the Holy Family and the Divine mercy bless and comfort them in their tragic and sad loss."

School principal Justin Toner described John Joe as a "special boy who made an immeasurable contribution to school and parish life".

"He was a talented footballer, a choir member and dedicated altar server," he added. "He brought a smile to everyone who met him.

"His passing will leave a huge void in the lives of all who knew him."

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