Daddy ‘loved being able to help others’

The family of a local pharmacist who passed away earlier this year have said the love and support of his customers has provided them with great comfort.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 10:58 am
Neil McKenna with his friend George Heaney
Neil McKenna with his friend George Heaney

Neil McKenna, who served generations of local people over six decades, died in Altnagelvin Hospital in January after a short illness. 

He opened his Great James Street chemist in 1964 and with his late wife Dianne raised his family, son Brian and daughter Michelle, above the shop. 

Mr McKenna continued to serve patients and customers right up until his retirement just weeks before he sadly passed away.

Neil McKenna who passed away at the end of January.

A former All Ireland athletics champion, Neil McKenna in his youth embarked on a three month diet of poached eggs and toast to save the princely sum of £1,200. He arrived home from London two stone lighter, but with enough money to set up shop.

Over the next six decades he loved nothing more than seeing his patients, many of whom became friends, and having the craic with them.

“He loved the craic and loved nothing more than when he was chatting and laughing with his patients,” daughter Michelle McKenna-Kler said.

“Friends and family members always dropped by to visit him ‘out the back’, his wee storeroom at the back of the shop.”

Michelle said it was always very much a family affair, with family members and close family friends always chipping in to work in the chemist.

She said that her father loved to help people and that kept him going over his long career.

“People could always confide and get advice off daddy here. He welcomed everybody and loved seeing them all,” Michelle added. “Everyone really trusted him and knew he cared about them and their loved ones.

“He always had me getting Mass cards for any of his patients’ family members if they passed away and always made a point of attending their wakes and funerals as much as he could.

“Daddy was so gentle and kind, generous and a good listener.

“He was full of compassion for others and loved helping anyone he could.”

Michelle, who began working alongside her father in the chemist as young girl, said her dad ‘always went out of his way for his patients’.

“It didn’t matter who you were, if you needed him he was there. He delivered medicine well into his 80s and would answer his phone and door at all hours of the day and night to his patients.

“Daddy thought nothing of it and it was just part of who he was. It was his life.”

Michelle said that since her father passed away, her family have come to realise how much he meant to people.

“We have received so much love and support from the customers, the local pharmacy community and friends. It is unbelievable how much Daddy meant to them and the effect he had on them.

“My daddy just loved his work and being able to help others in any way he could. The shop meant the world to him for so many reasons, in particular for the lifelong friendships he made with his customers.”

Michelle said the love and support has provided her family with great comfort.

“With the Covid pandemic we, like many others, have been unable to give daddy the send off he deserved. The support has been so comforting.

“On behalf of the man I had the privilege of calling my daddy, I want to sincerely thank everyone for their heartfelt condolences and overwhelming support and help during this time.”

Michelle thanked the staff of Ward 21 in Altnagelvin, Fr Paul Farren and Bradley and McLaughlin’s Funeral Directors, as well as all the patients, the local pharmacy community and friends.