Sean O’Kane, who worked as an English and drama teacher at St Joseph’s Boys’ School in Creggan, passed away at his home in the Bogside on Friday last after a long battle with cancer. He was aged just 41.
Social media has been inundated with tributes for the Glasgow Celtic fan who was laid to rest on Monday following Requiem Mass at St Columba’s Church, Long Tower.
His sister, Ciara, told mourners that his vocation as a teacher was what truly defined him.
He was, she said, not only a teacher of academics but of “love, kindness and tenacity in the face of adversity”.
The O’Kane family, said Ciara, had been inundated by many “beautiful” messages of love and support since Sean’s passing.
“We have had many, many messages of thanks for the extra passion and care that Sean had for helping young people fulfil their potential,” she said.
Sean had, his sister said, battled cancer for a long time ‘but not once were there any complaints’.”He met it head-on with nothing but positivity and energy to the end.”
She added: “Eight years ago, when Sean was first diagnosed with cancer, he changed his WhatsApp profile picture to a logo saying ‘infinity’. By definition, infinity is something that has no end and is bound by endless hope and that sums up Sean perfectly. Sean had infinite love for everyone he met on his wonderful journey on Earth and he is now at peace with the angels in heaven.”
“The message I leave you all with today is to live every day like it’s your last and to celebrate the life of Sean.”
Rev. Paddy Baker, ADM, Long Tower, told mourners that the welfare of pupils was always Sean’s top priority.
Rev. Baker described the deceased as a “Derry man, through and through” who took great pride in being a teacher.
“He loved St Joseph’s, its pupils and its staff,” he said.
The pastoral care of his pupils, said Rev. Baker, was key to Mr O’Kane’s role as a teacher, as was his “kindness, generosity and openness.”
Among those paying tribute to Mr O’Kane were his school, St Joseph’s, who described him as a “teacher, mentor, football coach, drama teacher colleague and a dear friend to many staff.”
A post on social media read: “Mr O’Kane was outstanding in his role and particularly his support to the boys both in and out of the class. He will be sorely missed by all our pupils, staff, Governors and the wider community that he was such a part of.”
Also paying tribute was former SDLP councillor Mary Durkan who first met Mr O’Kane at university 23 years ago.
She said: “I have known Sean’s passion and compassion, his care for others, especially for young people. He was loved inside and outside of the classroom- as a teacher, mentor and coach.
“His interests were wide and varied- football, sport, literature, theatre, history and politics, and he nurtured and developed the talents of so many young people through his dedication to school life, football coaching and extracurricular activities.”
Mr O’Kane, she said, had battled his own ill health with “gentle stoicism and gracious fortitude”.
She added: “A born teacher. All who knew him can learn so much from his example. And no doubt many will continue to be inspired by his legacy.”