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Joe passes on baton of love

by Jimmy Rhatigan

Stretching the imagination, we were The Waltons on tour.

And, it might even be fair to say that we had much in common with the famous American TV family of another time, the other Waltons who have been described as God-fearing good ol’ folks.

The US family was Baptist and disdained hard liquor and epitomized family values..

Well, one out of two is not bad. Our Kilkenny Waltons ooze family love, decency and respectability. They are sound working class people with high standards.

As for the liquor bit, me and the local family patriarch, Joe Walton, I will park that subject for another time.

The passing of Joe Walton, aged 92, Dean Cavanagh Place, Kilkenny brings me back to the happy days when I travelled around Ireland courtesy of Joe and his wonderfully kind wife, Anna.

Reason for the mainly weekend excursions was that the former Emfa Soccer Club striking star Simon Walton was then banging in the goals for top Cork intermediate team College Corinthians as he studied engineering at University College, Cork.

I have described the regular car journeys as excursions but perhaps more accurate would be pilgrimages, Stations of the Cross even as we tended to plan pit stops for cafes and pubs en route and to break the home journey too.

You could say we were travelling on a wing and a prayer but we were as safe as a house on fire as Simon’s mother was behind the wheel and true to her devotion to her beloved husband she was ever so sympathetic to Joe and my whims.

It was Anna in the driver’s seat, Joe in the front passenger seat and me in the back.

Conversation was light and easy with a mix of soccer and hurling the main topic with Anna, a loving mother to Simon and his sister, Claire very well versed in both games.

Anna and Joe’s passion for sport was encouraged by the participation of Claire and Simon in healthy activities that stirred local pride and led to healthy competition.

The Kilkenny Waltons displayed the courage and discipline of their distant cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Waltons television series was based on the real-life Hamner family from Virginia.

A blurb reminds that the show depicted a large close-knit family experiencing the ebbs and flows of life.

Claire and Simon Walton are mirror images for their hard working and totally devoted parents, Anna and Joe.

Claire and Simon are proof positive that good example and hard work is an ideal mix for a happy family life.

Joe’s passing means that he and his wife just missed celebrating the 62nd anniversary of their marriage together.

Joe served his time as a fitter mechanic with Kilkenny County Council in the 1940s and went on to be Council Yard Foreman until he retired.

There followed a new beginning as the Dicksboro GAA volunteer went on to years of promoting and helping to develop the club grounds at Palmerstown.

Joe delighted in continuing to help others particularly his local club for which he had a great passion.

His giving unselfishly of himself was complemented by his quiet and pleasant manner.

He enjoyed relaxing in the ‘Boro Clubhouse, sipping a couple of pints of Guinness. He was a good mixer, was never dominant and inevitably came up with a suggestion that would lead to further development.

Anna and Joe Walton’s life was a family affair. He enjoyed the company of friends, was happy following sport and doing what he could for his community club.

But it was always family first and that baton of love is now carried by the offspring of which both parents were always so proud.

I enjoyed being friendly with Joe, a relationship that was born out of our delight of watching Simon playing soccer.

He had a witty side too and when he posted a funny remark that would never be sarcastic it sometimes lasted for a lifetime.

I remember arriving back from a Sunday game in Cork in the Walton Mobile.

We decided to have an early night cap in Doherty’s of Friary Street.

We sank two more Guinness to add to the few we enjoyed in Mitchelstown.

‘Deoch an dorais’ suggested Joe.

‘I have enough, I am bunched’ I said.

I was branded a tissue paper man.

It was a name that Joe never forgot to remember.

And, aptly perhaps it was the words tissue paper man that came to mind when I heard of Joe’s sad passing.

My memory of Joe’s excellent company was never something to be sneezed at.

Rest peacefully my friend.

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