TRIBUTES have been paid to John Rooney, a well-known worker with Cork Penny Dinners, who passed away recently at the Mercy University hospital at the age of 54.
Mr Rooney, who credited Penny Dinners with saving himself from starvation on occasion, worked with the charity for a number of years while living on the streets of Cork.
Known as ‘Dublin John’ to many, Mr Rooney was a well-known character in the area and his passing has been met with great sadness.
“John had his ups and downs, his good days and bad days, his torment and his sadness, his pain and his struggle,” said Catriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.
“However, he always had love, a twinkle in his eye, and a very mischievous grin.
“We loved John and he loved us,” she added.
“He will be missed big time.”
Mr Rooney was originally from Dublin but called Cork home for many years. He was very well known across the city, according to Ms Twomey.
“Everyone who knew John down through the many years were fond of him and very good to him,” she said.
“Denise and all at Simon Community always did their best for him.
“The outstanding staff at the Mercy hospital always went above and beyond for him,” she added.
“Our gardaí and ambulance crews were always really good and kind to him.”
Mr Rooney was a great help to Penny Dinners over the years, according to Ms Twomey.
“John spent every day of his life for a good many years with us in Penny Dinners, running the show,” she said.
“He knew the ins and outs of everything.
“He would come in early to clean the pots and pans for our chefs Adam and Bríd,” she added.
“Then he’d head off through the town with a trolley to collect the bread from the English Market.
“John would serve, clear the tables and be happy as Lar,” recalled Ms Twomey.
She also recalled how helpful he was with the younger people and was no stranger to the media spotlight.
“John was John,” she smiled.
“He regaled us with stories of his life, he would give talks to our young students about the dangers of addiction and give them advice on how to seek help and deal with peer pressure.
“John shone brightest when there was young people about, he would always make sure they were well looked after,” she added.
“Anytime a journalist, a camera crew or a photographer came in, John took over and we watched him, fascinated.”
When he wasn’t busy working with Penny Dinners, Mr Rooney’s love for music drew him to their many classes.
“He loved music and loved coming along to our classes,” said Ms Twomey.
“At guitars, he would stay quietly listening until the urge to hear Hotel California got the better of him and off he went.
“Of course, he loved the High Hopes choir too and he often came along to listen to their rehearsals, sometimes even joining in,” she added.
As well as Cork, its people, and his family at Penny dinners, John’s own family and his native city of Dublin held a special place in his heart.
“He was always talking about Dublin and his loving family, his children, his sister, and especially his mother, and how he loved them so much,” said Ms Twomey.
“To some, John was a bit of a character, a lovable rogue.
“To us at Cork Penny Dinners, he was family, he was Cork Penny Dinners.”
A memorial mass for Mr Rooney is to be held today at the Holy Trinity Church on Fr Matthew Quay, Cork at 2pm.
His ashes will be scattered at a location in Cork.