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Chuck Feeney left the world ‘better than he found it’, mourners at his funeral ceremony told

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The Irish Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

Patrick Feeney carries the ashes of his father, Chuck Feeney, at the funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery. Photograph: Naoise Culhane

By Paul Cullen

Chuck Feeney left the world better than he found it through his “incredible” compassion for the less fortunate, a funeral for the billionaire philanthropist has been told.

The world needs the light cast by Mr Feeney and his “great humanity” more than ever, his daughter Leslie Feeney-Baily said at the private ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery on Friday.

Mr Feeney, whose philanthropy provided nearly €2 billion in funding to Irish causes, died at his home in San Francisco on October 9th.

President Michael D Higgins attended the funeral, where he met Mr Feeney’s widow Helga and his five children, Juliette, Caroleen, Leslie, Diane and Patrick.

In a reflection on her father’s life, Ms Feeney-Baily told mourners he had “done a few good deeds” in his life and joked that he was probably now “selling luxury clouds to the angels”.

She expressed thanks for “modelling to so many of us, to me, a life full of hard and exciting work, a life with no ego, and an incredible compassion and care for those less fortunate than us, all of which sprinkled with a strong dose of mischievous humour. The thing that comes to me, above all else, is your love, your love for us, for life, for humanity. You truly left the world better than you found it.”

Mark Patrick Hederman, former abbot of the Benedictine monastery at Glenstal, Co Limerick, and Prof Helen Phelan of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance officiated at the funeral.

“Knowing Chuck as we do, he would not want this farewell to be a mournful or a dreary occasion,” Fr Hederman told mourners.

Prof Phelan spoke about the late philanthropist’s support for the academy, based at the University of Limerick.

Through his organisation Atlantic Philanthropies, Mr Feeney made grants totalling more than $8 billion on five continents.

He took a particular interest in Ireland and spent much of his fortune developing civil society and peace initiatives on the island.

Fewer than 100 people attended the event, many of them relatives and friends from across the US and Europe. The attendance included Alan Parker and Anthony Pilaro, two of Mr Feeney’s former business partners in the DFS duty-free group on which his fortune was based, as well as president and chief executive of Atlantic Philanthropies, Christopher G Oechsli.

Ms Feeney-Baily recalled how, when she was attending a remote French convent school, her father had visited her unexpectedly, armed with an “enormous movie projector” on which he showed The Sound of Music. “Movie done, you were back in your Peugeot 305, down the winding road and back on a plane, briefcase overflowing with problems to solve.”

On another occasion, she related, Mr Feeney surprised her when she was studying at the University of Virginia by flying from Honolulu “dressed head-to-toe in multicoloured, mismatched Hawaiian clothes pilfered from the DFS airport shop on the way out”.

“This is you, Dad, full of love for us, for our friends, full of playfulness, never taking yourself too seriously even if all the while you were trying to solve the world’s problems. What lives on in all of us is your great humanity: you have filled our hearts with love and compassion and a sense of life’s endless possibilities, I am so grateful.”

Harpist Aoibhe Kettle played Carolan’s Farewell to Music, “to bring these sharings to a close … on behalf of all students who have benefitted from Chuck’s belief in the power of education”.

Following the funeral at Glasnevin Chapel, his son Patrick carried his father’s ashes to a grave in keeping with the philanthropist’s wish that his final resting place should be in Ireland.

At the graveside, lone piper Tim Farrelly played The Dawning of the Day.

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