Family, friends and dog owners have paid tribute to a “wonderfully kind” business owner and mother from Co Tyrone who died peacefully in hospital.
Maria Farrell from Strabane was the owner of Paws Doggy Daycare in Lisburn, and had previously spoken movingly to the Belfast Telegraph about losing her father Jackie to Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic.
A post on her business’ Facebook page on Monday read: “It’s with a heavy heart that we have to report our beautiful owner Maria passed away peacefully this morning.”
Customers were told the business would close on Tuesday evening and reopen on Thursday at 7am.
A family notice said Ms Farrell had died peacefully in hospital, and her death was deeply regretted by her partner Jim, daughters Beth and Taylor and the wider family.
Her funeral is to take place today from her residence in Loughinisland at 9am to St Macartan’s Church, Loughinisland for 10am Mass followed by removal to Strabane.
On Thursday, her remains will be taken to St Mary’s Church Melmount, Strabane, for 10am and burial in the adjoining cemetery.
In April 2020, Ms Farrell had spoken about losing her father Jackie Farrell (88) to coronavirus, just one day after he was admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital.
"If I've learned one thing it's to value the people you love because they don't come with a price," she said at the time.
Mr Farrell had been a well known bus driver in Strabane where he had lived for many years.
"He had slight symptoms of Covid-19, but it got to his lungs and it took him very, very quickly," she said.
"I really want to thank the people of Strabane. Although they were practising social distancing they came out of their doors to show their respects. They made it a proud day for the Farrell family.
"My message is that if you think you all are going to be exempt from this, or that you're immune to Covid-19, you are all barking up the wrong tree.
"He had fought cancer, heart attacks, falls. You name it and he bounced back. This took him.
"I'm happy my daddy is with my mummy today. He had a good life. We always had great fun together. Covid-19 can't take that from me."
Many customers and friends shared their own tributes on the Paws Doggy Daycare page, praising Ms Farrell for the care she provided to so many pets.
One said: “Such terrible news. What a wonderfully kind woman she was. I remember the first day we dropped Lucky off and he was only about four months. She put us completely at ease and was so warm and kind. Condolences to you all at Paws and to Maria’s family. A beautiful lady gone too soon.”
Another called it “sad, shocking news”.
“Maria was the life and soul of the daycare and so caring and compassionate to my nervous dog. She was always smiling, full of energy and will be very sorely missed. Condolences to all her close family and friends".
A further tribute read: “Maria was the most beautiful, inspiring, happy wonderful lady. Such a loss. Peppy absolutely loved her and she knew her from she was a tiny pup. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria's friends and family and everyone at Paws.”
Another said: “Taken too soon, but what beautiful memories she leaves behind to comfort us all. I personally will remember her enthusiasm for life, her love for her family and her horses and dogs, her energy, her compassion for others, and her kindness towards me.”
She added: “While working at Paws one day she actually gave me the scarf from around her neck because I admired it on her so much, saying ‘it matches your eyes better than mine pet’. I will wear that scarf with pride, and thankfulness of having been privileged to have known such a beautiful soul.”