Community mourns passing of inspirational centenarian

September 9, 2013

by Christine Keighery

Members of the local community have paid tribute to the inspirational Biddy Kaufmann, who   passed away last week at the ripe old age of 100.

The active centenarian has left a lasting legacy throughout the local area due to her tireless community work and commitment to voluntary services over the years.

Even as recently as May this year the older people’s champion was voicing her concerns over the possibility of her beloved Cloughreagh House being closed.  Having lived for 58 years in America, Mrs Kauffmann had returned to her native Meigh along with her American born husband a number of years ago.  After her husband died, she sold her house and came to live in Cloughreagh House as she “didn‘t want to be on her own, especially at night.”

When Health Chiefs earmarked the care home for closure earlier this year, Biddy, in her own inimitable style, spoke out about her anguish that the secure place she now called home faced closure.

As the oldest resident at Cloughreagh House, the centenarian revealed in TV and radio interviews at the time that she considered relocating to a hotel if health officials were to go ahead with the proposed closure.  She also spoke on behalf of other residents who would not be able to relocate to an apartment and questioned the compassion of health authorities in allowing such a proposition to be considered.

Biddy was no stranger to campaigning, having been the driving force behind securing a Community Centre for Meigh some years ago.  She was also at the forefront of a campaign to acquire a nursery school in the area and was heavily involved in the Senior Citizens Consortium and the University of the Third Age (U3A).

In March 2012 Biddy’s outstanding contribution to the community was recognised when she was presented with the Making a Difference Award in the Northern Ireland People of the Year Awards.  At the age of 99 such an accolade was the latest in a collection of awards and recognitions the formidable lady had earned over the years.

Sinn Fein Councillor Pat McGinn recalled that he first met Biddy when he was involved in the U3A.

“She was a wise, committed lady, who turned her talk into action. When I joined the Council I met her more with the Senior Citizens Consortium and she was a great champion for the well-being and rights of older people. Biddy led from the front, and would not take no for an answer. I enjoyed her company, her wisdom and her wit.”

Biddy will be sorely missed by young and old throughout the community she worked so tirelessly for.  Pupils at St. Joseph’s Primary School in Meigh, with which she was closely affiliated, formed a guard of honour at her funeral last Thursday and some have been remembering the inspirational lady this week in their own special way.

Students Katie King and Aaron O’Neill penned a poem in remembrance of a woman who “loved to laugh” and “loved the craic” while fellow pupils Ellen Cromie and Sophie Quinn wrote their own tribute to Biddy where they describe her as “always kind to everyone and always gave us something nice.”

Indeed, Mrs Kauffmann is held in such high esteem within the school that a monthly Biddy Kauffmann award is given to the pupil who most embodies the attributes of kindness, generosity and helpfulness.

Principal of St. Joseph’s, Isobel Temple, fondly remembered Biddy as a great supporter of the school.

“She visited the school regularly and was a greatly loved by the staff and children” she said.

“Her engaging personality made her a very welcome visitor and the stories she would tell proved very popular with all within the school community.

“Indeed, she was of such inspiration to all within the school that a monthly award, given to the pupil in each class that most embodies her spirit of generosity, community involvement and positive attitude, was named after her.

“Her ability to engage with life, make the most of every day and to help others, will live on within the school and hopefully prove an inspiration for the children for many years to come.”

With a life which spanned a century, lived to the full across two continents and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of residents in her native Meigh, it seems the legacy of Biddy Kauffmann will live on for years to come throughout the community who knew and loved her.

Poetic tribute to inspirational lady Biddy

By Katie King and Aaron O’Neill (St. Joseph’s P.S. pupils, Meigh)

Biddy Kauffmann that’s the name

That everybody knows,

She loved to laugh, she loved the craic,

And she knew how to put on a show.

Biddy’s life had ups and downs

But then again that’s life,

She never moaned, she never groaned,

And was always jolly and bright.

Biddy went right to the end

She never gave up one bit,

She laughed, she gave, she made, she prayed,

And everything she did was appreciated.

Goodbye Biddy, we will miss you!