THE memory of a remarkable priest is to be honoured by Trinity College through the creation of a new Fr Tony Coote Assistant Professorship in Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Research.
Fr Tony Coote (55) touched the lives of many people when he took to the highways of the country as part of ‘Walk While You Can’, a 550km trek that sought to raise awareness about the disease, but also managed to raise €600,000 for research MND.
After his diagnosis, Fr Coote found that he was part of a vastly under-resourced medical world that involved just three nurses covering the 400 people living with MND in Ireland.
The priest, who had always enjoyed boundless energy, was shocked by the initial diagnosis but quickly resolved to do something positive and, at the time, he told The Southern Star: ‘I want to use the time that I have left, and my voice, to do something positive.’
On July 19th 2018, he embarked on the walk with the aim of raising a quarter of a million euro. Of course, he more than doubled his original target and throughout he spoke with awe about the number of people who held cake sales, did sponsored runs, treadmill challenges, choral recitals and much more, to support the cause.
West Cork can claim a close association with him because on Monday, August 6th, he ended that particular journey in Ballydehob.
One West Cork woman, Kate Crowley, who met him with a large assembly at Dessertserges National School in Enniskeane told The Southern Star: ‘Everyone who met him was inspired by him.’
Kate walked one leg of the journey with him to Dunmanway and also read his book Live While You Can. She said their meeting with him impressed upon them the futility of complaining about trivial things and the finding the will to live life to the full.
‘In our part of the walk,’ she said, ‘we all helped push local girl, Maggie Barrett, in her wheelchair from Desert to Dunmanway, and it felt like a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage.’
Speaking at the funeral recently, David Coote said his brother’s ability to mobilise people for a cause was second to none. He said Tony saw the good in every situation and with that good came the opportunity to connect with people.