Well-known member of the Gleno and Larne communities

Valerie McGookin in her younger days.
Valerie McGookin in her younger days.

Valerie McGookin, who died suddenly at her home at Ballyvernstown near Gleno, was a well-known and respected member of the Larne community, as was evidenced by the exceptionally large gathering of mourners at her funeral.

Raloo Presbyterian Church was filled to capacity for the service of thanksgiving for her life, with many mourners having to gather outside.

Valerie McGookin, who was a well-known and respected member of the Larne community.

Valerie McGookin, who was a well-known and respected member of the Larne community.

Magheramorne Silver Band played during the Service of Thanksgiving for her life, her husband Tommy being a dedicated member of the band over many years.

Valerie Patricia McGookin was the daughter of the late John and Jean Nelson of Ballycarry and was born in March 1942, the only daughter in a family of seven brothers.

Involved from an early age in church activities, she was a member of the choir and played piano for the BB Life boys.

At the age of 14 years she started employment with Tweedy Acheson’s drapery department in Larne, one of the distinctive landmark shops in the town, and she honed her skills for interacting with people there, as well as developing a keen interest in fashion.

Her career took her to the Co-op in Belfast, where she took up a position in the drapery department, and she also worked at Ballantines in Larne for 20 years, in Apsleys in Larne and in McDowell’s shop in Gleno near her home.

Valerie loved to dance and she met her husband to be, Tom McGookin at the Plaza dance hall in Larne, where he played in the Regent Dance Band. The band consisted of Alex Brown (bass), Robert Magill (guitar), Tom Cameron (trumpet), Gordon Burke (accordion) and Tom McGookin (saxophone).

The couple fell in love and were married on May 11, 1967, honeymooning in Edinburgh before setting up their home in Glynn village, where their children were born.

After a time they built a house at Ballyvernstown a few miles away, and Valerie worked on the farm as well as at Apsleys shop in Larne.

The Service of Thanksgiving was told by Rev Ricky Montgomery that the couple had enjoyed 52 fabulous years of marriage and had many happy memories, including of cruises to many parts of the world.

A great lover of gardening, the cinema and meeting people, Valerie McGookin was an active member of Gleno Women’s Institute, Raloo Presbyterian Women’s Association and in one of the catering groups associated with the Raloo Presbyterian Church.

The thanksgiving service was told that she was so well-known in Larne that a walk along the Main Street in the town which would normally take five minutes would take her an hour on account of the number of people she knew and would stop to talk to.

The service was told how she had been a great support to others within the family when illness and bereavement occurred.

Referring to her deep Christian faith, Rev Montgomery said that in her Bible she had the word joy written down: “the J was for Jesus first, the O for others next and the Y for yourself last; and she followed that to the letter. She was so humble and kind that she didn’t realise the great and beautiful effect she had on people,” he said.

The service was told that it had been Mrs McGookin’s wish that the funeral service would be a celebration of her life. She had said “God has really blessed me with a good husband and three lovely children who gave me eight lovely grandchildren. God has been so good.”

Following the service interment took place in the adjacent cemetery.

Donations in lieu of flowers were encouraged to N.I Chest Heart &Stroke.

Valerie McGookin is survived by her husband Tom, sons Derek and Thomas and daughter Julie, daughters-in-law Irene and Sharon and son-in-law David and grandchildren Rebecca, Carla, Joni, Wil, Amy, Megan, Emily and Tom.