Aoife Beary did not let the Berkeley balcony collapse define her, mourners hear

Ms Beary, 27, who survived the tragedy which claimed the lives of six of her friends in the US six years ago, passed away on New Year’s Day at Beaumont Hospital after suffering a stroke three days earlier.
Aoife Beary did not let the Berkeley balcony collapse define her, mourners hear

Sarah Slater

Aoife Beary, a survivor of the Berkeley balcony collapse was a person who “embraced life and all of its possibilities,” mourners at her funeral mass heard.

Ms Beary, 27, who survived the tragedy which claimed the lives of six of her friends in the US six years ago, passed away on New Year’s Day at Beaumont Hospital after suffering a stroke three days earlier.

She became the seventh victim to die as a result of injuries suffered in the Library Gardens balcony collapse in Berkeley, California, in 2015.

Ms Beary and six other students suffered life-changing injuries as a result of the balcony collapse.

'Adventurous life'

Hundreds of mourners began to gather an hour prior to the 10am ceremony at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Foxrock, south Co Dublin to pay their respects to the occupational health student.

Students from her former secondary school, Loreto Foxrock, formed a guard of honour as her remains were carried into the church in a wicker coffin adorned with a floral bouquet.

Symbols representing Aoife’s “adventurous life” were brought to the altar including a pair of Irish dancing shoes, as Aoife danced from the age of 6 to 21.

Poignantly, mourners were told that she danced in competitions all over Europe and completed her final dancing exam a week before travelling to Berkley in 2015.

A guard of honour from pupils from Lotetto, Foxrock and Hollypark School pictured at the funeral of Aoife Beary. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Her UCD science degree scroll and a coffee cup were also brought to the altar, as mourners heard her “day always had to begin with a vanilla latte”.

Those gathered to pay their respects to her parents Mike and Angela, and younger sibling's brother Tim and sister Anna, were told in the homily by Fr Kieran Dunne that, “‘What can be said of her resilience and her capacity to dry-humouredly comment on the circumstances of her life?

“She overcame obstacles she never asked for, and she didn’t allow the tragedy of the balcony collapse in Berkeley to define the totality of her life, and her innate courage and bravery allowed her to continually challenge herself.

"Today we gather to celebrate a life, a person of remarkable gift and talent. A woman who faced the very depth of loss of many friends and personal injury to herself and others.

"A person who embraced life and its possibilities again, finding especially new growth in life in her friendships and in her study in Oxford Brookes.

Mourners heard she was "a loving, loyal, faithful young woman who had the capacity to nurture true friendship" and her death "just crushes us with total surprise, deep grief, and a sense of hopelessness.”

'Fought such a good fight'

The young woman, who was awarded a BSc in pharmacology from UCD was also remembered for her adventurous nature that she had since she was a child of 10-years-old.

Aoife’s uncle and godfather James O’Doherty, in a eulogy on behalf of her family, said she “fought such a good fight” as a result of the “burden” of her injuries.

"Dear Aoife, your battle is at an end. You fought such a good fight. The burden of your injuries, the burden of dealing with them didn't leave a lot of space for joy in living," Mr O'Doherty said.

"But you insisted on living life well. You insisted on a life full of meaning and purpose. It was grounded in your ability to connect with people.

"The strong friendships you've built from an early age, I can't give any better testament to those friendships than your friends who brought up your gifts today and said your prayers. They're childhood friends that you maintained all your life."

Mr O’Doherty told mourners that she “didn’t forget” her friends that were killed in the tragedy, especially when she went to California to testify in front of California’s building legislator.

He continued: “You didn’t forget your friends when you went and sat in front of the lawmakers in California and you said those words that I think everybody here remembers — that your birthday will always be their anniversary.

"I think that's a fabulous tribute to your ability to connect with people. You continued to make new friends. Your love of travel, your 25 by 25 allowed you to connect with people around the world and particularly in your latter years at Oxford Brookes when you made strong friendships in the UK.

“And one of the valuable things was that those friendships came without the baggage of Berkeley. She didn't let the accident define her or become a victim."

He asked mourners to celebrate Aoife's life.

"We never expect, and no parent should have to endure a phone call to summon us to the other side of the world to take care of our sick child, to nurse her back to health.

"No parent should have to worry about her recovery, no parent should have to be anxious about her future. No parent should have to bury their child."

Lorcán Miller and Eimear Walsh along with Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, and cousins Olivia Burke and Ashley Donohoe died in the collapse - all were aged 20 and 21.

Despite her multiple injuries, Ms Beary campaigned to force building companies to release public safety records and report any work-related crimes or settlements to California’s building regulator.

More recently, Ms Beary had been studying at Oxford Brookes University in England.

She is survived by her parents Mike and Angela, her younger brother Tim, her younger sister Anna and her wider family.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more