Monday, April 13, 2015

John McNamara

I believe it was the late Maya Angelou who said "people will never forget how you made them feel."

I only knew John for a few years, but in that time he became a great friend. I came to appreciate his intelligence, his calm, his love of beauty and fashion, his ability to listen, his wisdom, and his great, great kindness. I also learned to appreciate his particular sense of humour - very dry most of the time, but occasionally very smutty, which initially was not something you'd expect from someone so genteel and cultured. In fact, the first time he revealed that particular aspect of his personality I was driving on the motorway around Limerick and momentarily lost control of the steering wheel, but however.

I'd walk around the city centre with John many times, and we'd go to lunch on Saturdays, and everyone seemed to know him. He seemed to know a lot about many people - but he was discreet. So it came as a huge surprise to me just this weekend, immediately after he left us, to learn that he was even more private than I had assumed. He was friendly to people in general, it was part of him, but he liked his own house, his own space, and his few close friends for whom he loved to cook. Not many others were allowed in.

I know that he loved his work as a bespoke designer. I like to think that it was part of his kindness - he had the ability to make women look and feel beautiful on their special days, and he loved being able to do that. After he wound down his business, he and I and a friend of ours went exploring through Brown Thomas here in Limerick, and we came across a designer I'd never heard of - "very few women can pull this designer's work off, but I think it would really suit you," he told me, and then talked into trying on a very odd garment that closed with a giant pin. I am a hard person to get to try on clothes anyway, but he was very firm ... and he was right. I DID look good in it. "There now," he said "You should buy that. It's 370 Euro now, but it will probably be only about 200 in the sale." This was in 2012, I didn't have the funds for it, but anyway. In the summer of 2014 my niece Emma from the Netherlands came to visit, we all went shopping, and he picked out a lovely jacket for her. Emma was thrilled to meet a fashion expert like John. She is shocked to learn he has passed.

I know he enjoyed his involvement in ILoveLimerick.com, for various reasons. It meant he kept in touch with what was happening in the city and the various people involved in those events, and he so enjoyed Richard's company as well, and I think was very helpful to ILoveLimerick in so many ways. John's calm and measured approach to things also helped Richard personally, and in turn Richard brought out John's fun, naughty side, and we could appreciate John's dry and smutty sense of humour I mentioned earlier.

Dolf and I loved to meet up with John and we'd go out for lunch of a Saturday, or I'd call John and we'd go grocery shopping, have coffee, and catch up. He didn't have that many very close friends, I realise now, but those he loved, he loved deeply. I know that he loved and missed his mother Nora very much, and that he was very attached to his brothers and sisters-in-law and their children and grandchildren.

But back to the how John made people feel. He was curious about people, remembered things about them, and liked to tell you if you were looking well. You came away from a brief exchange feeling a little happier, a little more attractive, a little special. That was John's gift. He was kind enough to share his infinite inner beauty with everyone he knew. He was in my life for just a few years, but I know I will miss him for a very long time.

Me and John McNamara, photo courtesy of ILoveLimerick.com, photographer Dolf Patijn