Cherished memories of my sister Karen...

More than 550 women will attend a fundraiser for Marymount this weekend organised by Maeve Dennehy in memory of her sister Karen. CHRIS DUNNE talks to the successful boutique owner about the upcoming event, memories of her sister and the family's eternal gratitude to the hospice
Cherished memories of my sister Karen...
Maeve Dennehy (right) with her sister Karen (left).

BUSINESSWOMAN Maeve Dennehy wasn’t totally surprised that her fundraising event in aid of Marymount sold out in 24 hours.

More than 550 women will attend the event, ‘Become: Self-Love Master-class’, this Sunday, February 11, in the Charleville Park Hotel. The day is being hosted by Síle Seoige and has been organised by Maeve, in memory of her sister Karen, who died aged 39.

“I can’t believe it, 550 very excited women are looking forward to the event,” says Maeve, owner of the award-winning Charleville boutique, Love Cherish.

“I’d be lying to say I’m not nervous. It is a day of positivity, confidence, self-care, fun, self-love, fashion, beauty and mindfulness. Karen would have loved to be in the thick of it all.”

Big sisters look out for you. It’s what they do. They share your childhood memories and your grown-up dreams.

“I know Karen is still looking out for me,” says Maeve, who lives in Ballyhea with husband Stephen and their son, baby Ned, who is three months old.

Karen passed away on March 24, 2013, in the care of Marymount Hospice, Cork.

“So many good things have happened to me,” says Maeve. “I know she’s there. Even though I have wonderful friends and family, there is nobody as loyal, no matter what. You trust your big sister more than anyone in the world.

“I was often annoying, but I know I entertained her as well. She was the goody-goody two shoes. Myself and our brother were the rebels.”

Maeve fondly remembers happy days with Karen.

“When I opened the store in September, 2012, Karen came to Dublin buying stock with me. We got going painting the shop and looking on Done Deal for shelving and other bits.”

Maeve Dennehy on her wedding day, with her sister Karen.
Maeve Dennehy on her wedding day, with her sister Karen.

Karen always believed in her little sister.

“Dad was like, what are you at? He wasn’t impressed! I was opening a boutique in recession times,” says Maeve.

“Karen and I knew we might get a better deal and better rent.

“I had worked for a medical company and I was never in retail. But I really wanted to give it a go.”

Karen told her so.

Love Cherish is celebrating its fifth anniversary as an award-winning boutique and won Xpose boutique of the year in 2017.

“Six of us work at Love Cherish. I’m juggling work and baby Ned. It’s all go!” says Maeve.

“My parents are brilliant. Now, they have someone else to love. I never saw them so happy again. Ned is the first grandchild on both sides.”

Karen and Maeve were typical sisters.

“Even though she was six years older than me, we robbed each other’s clothes,” says Maeve, smiling at the memory. “We fought a lot with the age gap; yet Karen looked out for me.”

Maeve had a lot to live up to.

“Yes, Karen was student of the year at our school, St Patrick’s. She won a scholarship to UCC and achieved a Masters in Commerce when she studied in Washington.”

Karen was always a phone call away.

The sisters became even closer when Karen returned to Ireland, living in Dublin for 10 years, and then moving back to Cork.

“She married a Cork man!” says Maeve.

Karen was the go-to girl for her sister’s wedding.

“She was the older sister who had done everything,” says Maeve.

“Karen organised a trip to Lanzarote before my wedding in 2011, she was my bridesmaid along with two of my best friends.”

Did the sisters look alike?

“Karen was dark like dad,” says Maeve. “I’m more like mum. We had the same smile though.”

Maeve Dennehy and sister Karen.
Maeve Dennehy and sister Karen.

And they were made of the same stuff.

“When Karen got sick, you’d never know it,” says Maeve. “She kept the bright side out for 10 years. She continued working and we had a great 35th birthday party for her in Mount Oval.”

Karen confided in her sister like Maeve confided in her.

“She got married in July when she was 29, and that September she mentioned that something was wrong with her breast.”

Karen took the lumpectomy in her stride.

“She had the procedure in Dublin and she was pretty much sorted for four years,” says Maeve. “Her 35th birthday was brilliant.”

But the cancer reared its head again.

“The cancer came back, resulting in a mastectomy carried out in the CUH,” says Maeve.

Again, Karen showed her mettle.

“She bounced back,” says Maeve. “She still worked. She still travelled. I remember when she had to have her hair shaved off in the wig clinic on Barrack Street. We went for breakfast afterwards to Brown Thomas. She was that kind of girl.”

She was the kind of girl who championed her little sister’s Big Dream too.

“Karen got stuck in with me, organising the stock for the boutique and getting Love Cherish boutique ready for the customers,” says Maeve.

“Mum and dad were a big part of Karen’s life. We all went on holiday together and Karen continued to work full time. She packed a lot in.”

The cancer continued to affect Karen.

“I remember I held a fashion show in the Charleville Park in 2013,” says Maeve. “Karen was very thin. She had the vomiting bug. When she went to A&E, she was told the cancer had spread to her brain. Operating wasn’t an option.”

Marymount proved a huge support to Karen and the family.

“She rang me one day,” says Maeve, “saying ‘I want to go to Marymount for respite’.

“Often, people fear going into Marymount, but Karen spent her last five weeks there in comfort and peace. There was nothing that the staff wouldn’t do for her and the family.”

Karen was still the bossy big sister.

“She was on the phone, telling me to re-arrange the window display in the shop. Move this; change that, she ordered,” says Maeve.

The sisters spent precious time together.

“I stayed in Marymount in rooms available for family,” says Maeve.

People were available to help out the sisters in their time of need.

“My mother-in-law stepped in to help in the shop. One day a lovely girl, Sharon, came into the shop with her CV. She is still working with me.”

The sisters, forever friends, who had cheered each other to the greatest heights, consoled each other when they fell down.

“Karen and I chatted all day. We got to say everything we wanted to say.”

The bond between the sisters remained strong and often silent.

“We spent hours watching A Place In The Sun, the TV programme about properties abroad. We watched that all day.”

They did the girlie things they always did.

“Karen came home to Rochestown from Marymount one night,” says Maeve.

“We got a bottle of wine and a takeaway. I painted Karen’s toenails.”

Karen slipped into a coma a week before she passed away.

Even though Maeve’s heart was broken, she poured her heart and soul into Love Cherish.

And she has continued to give back to Marymount, who had helped her family when they needed it.

“I held an event for Marymount in the September, the first year I opened,” says Maeve. “We raised €8,500 for Marymount.”

Business was booming.

“The boutique proved very popular,” says Maeve. “Local people love it and we have customers who regularly travel long distances for that special outfit.”

Maeve believes her sister has something to do with her amazing success.

“Sonia Lennon visited the store and we featured on Xpose, winning boutique of the year last year. We appeared on TV3, which catapulted the store’s reputation.

Maeve Dennehy won boutique of the year on Xpose.
Maeve Dennehy won boutique of the year on Xpose.

“We’ve won numerous awards since opening in 2012. Karen is looking after me 100%.”

Maeve had to seek out bigger premises, due to the success of the store.

“I needed a bigger unit, business was so good,” says Maeve.

Speaking ahead of this Sunday’s fundraiser in Charleville, Maeve said she hopes the self-love event will spread more love around.

“We can remember loved ones in a positive way,” she adds.

Maeve, like many of the 550 women attending the event, wears many hats, that of a mother, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a co-worker, a neighbour, a friend.

“Often, in the business of life we forget to cherish ourselves,” says Maeve.

“The fun-filled afternoon will help to love ourselves more, as well as giving to a great cause.

“It was sold out at 5pm the day I launched it,” she adds.

“I was blown away by the support. All the local businesses got involved.

“Like-minded women and volunteers came on board to make the day a really special one, all about women being the best person of themselves.”

Karen will be in everyone’s thoughts on the day.

“We’ll remember Karen in a sad, but good way,” says Maeve, who still has lots of loved ones in her corner.

“My hubby bought two tickets in case they wouldn’t sell,” she adds, laughing.

Funds raised from the event will go to Marymount. Her family realise that Karen’s final days were spent in dignity, surrounded by her loved ones.

“Marymount looked after Karen so well. She had no pain and she had a dignified passing, which is so important.”

There was no fear.

“You’d think you might dread going back to Marymount” says Maeve. “But it is such a nice place, you have no fear. My aunt passed away afterwards in the same room as Karen. It was peaceful and dignified.”

“Marymount is very important to me,” adds Maeve.

“My sister was looked after so well there. They are all angels up there.

“We’re hoping to raise in excess of €15,000 for Marymount. I’ll be the happiest girl in the world when I hand over the cheque.”

And big sister would be the proudest.

More in this section

Sponsored Content