Tribute to Joe McGarry (1932-2015)

By on Monday, June 15, 2015

joe_mcgarry_prescotThe family of the late Joe McGarry, a one-time Knowsley councillor and Mayor of Prescot, have kindly given Prescot Online permission to publish this tribute, which was read at his funeral on 10 June 2015.

Joseph, known as Joe was born in 1932, the last child of Elizabeth and Leo McGarry. He had three older siblings: Mary, Billy and Jean. Due to childhood ailments, Joe was banned from the majority of exercise-based activities. In spite of this Joe would tie his bed sheets together and use them to climb out of his bedroom window and run up Manchester Road in Prescot with his swimming trunks and towel under his arm. Joe swore that this cured his asthma.

This determination made him the complex man that he was. It saw him through his medical examination as he was conscripted into the Army of a post-war Britain awakening to a new political and social reality in which Joe was to play his part.

Joe became an Electrician by trade. He built and maintained our power stations. In 1955 Joe married his fiance, Joan Heaton, in St Anne’s Church in Rainhill and they had three daughters, Susan, Linda and Debra. They have three Grandchildren: Mark, Katrina and Laura, whom he adored and treasured. They also have Emily, their great grandchild.

Joe (1)After Joe’s retirement he became a passionate councillor. He and his wife Joan were very proud to be elected the Mayor and Mayoress of Prescot in 2002. Joe was a respected member of the community. He championed the vulnerable, helped to build communities as well as power stations and in this, Joe played his part in the building of the Britain in which we now live.

Joe’s sheer determination to overcome adversity and follow his instincts stayed with him throughout his life and no doubt kept him alive for the last thirteen years as he battled with cancer. Last July Joseph attended the end of life therapeutic clinic at Willowbrook Hospice. Ten weeks later, Joseph gave them cake and wine and waved goodbye. Advanced cancer, recurring pneumonia, chronic kidney disease, coronary heart disease and finally septicemia, were
just challenges for Joe to overcome. He believed he could overcome them all. Time and time again he bounced back and it is this resilience of spirit that we will carry in our hearts. He believed that life was sacred, a gift to be fought
for and his truly was.

Joe always found time for friends and family and liked to share his passion for machines and gadgets. As a young man Joe had a series of motorbikes and used to love going to the TT Races. The walls of his garden shed were covered with photographs of famous riders and bike parts. The matchless G9 500 twin cylinder was his pride and joy and at this time Joseph sported a James Dean haircut and had the smouldering good looks to suit. To the end Joseph loved nice clothes and sharp suits, presenting as a dapper old gent.

All his life Joe was a keen photographer, initially converting a bedroom into a darkroom before the digital work took over. He and his nephew in law, John, would work late into the night developing photographs. He documented his family life and community in hand printed black and white shots winning competitions in photographic magazines. Joe always liked making and fixing things. He would go out of his way to help any of his family and friends in decorating, electrical wiring and plumbing jobs, making the task seem like a pleasure for him, as he liked a challenge.

Sometimes the work didn’t always go as planned, though. For example he decided to widen the gap for the loft entrance in his daughter Sue’s house and when she got home a hundred years worth of dust covered the entire upstairs space. Joe was always very sanguine about these things saying it could be worse.

He kept the same calm and cavalier spirit when he went to New York for his 80th birthday and got caught in hurricane Sandy. It was the worsy hurricane to hit New York City to date and both Sue and Deb listened intently to President Obama’s instructions on how to survive. Joseph said the Americans were prone to exaggeration and he’d “heard worse winds at home”. He went wandering around outside on the afternoon before it hit when the winds were throwing people over! All the lights went off for two days and Joe blamed poor wiring. His daughters were traumatized and had to do retail therapy for the week they were trapped in New York whilst Joe drank tea and found people to chat to.

This spirit of adventure never left Joe and he enjoyed a flight in a small aircraft for his 82nd birthday. Joe was a generous, energetic, and extremely funny man who was an inspiration to all who knew him.

Please remember him every time you turn on a light switch.

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