It was with deep sadness that friends and colleagues in Clonakilty and surrounding areas heard of the death of Joan Sexton on April 17 last. Joan will be remembered for a myriad of reasons, both personal and professional, was well-recognised as a valued employee of Collins Brooke’s and Associates, and for her voluntary work within her community in addition to her many contributions to community projects.
Joan was a founding member and the first Chairperson of the Clonakilty Access Group, formed in 1995. She continued untiringly in this position for in excess of fifteen years. During that time, she spearheaded campaigns to render Clonakilty a town accessible to all. Such campaigns included: having footpaths ramped; street furniture and other obstacles removed from footpaths; flower baskets raised to suitable heights to ensure no visually impaired person would collide with them; parking spaces for people with physical disabilities suitably highlighted, located and established in town and enforced; highlighted accessibility to public buildings, including toilet facilities; campaigned to retain accessibility to Inchydoney beach; and coordinated many other projects as they arose or were brought to her attention.
She was strong, determined and forthright, but also patient. She was always positive and realistic that not everything she wanted could be achieved. Despite her own physical disabilities and frequent illnesses over the years, she led a full, independent life, refusing to let her disability to confine her. Her motto was: “People with disabilities should never shy away from asking, demanding and accepting assistance that would make their lives better.” She put this into practice herself, insisting against all advice that she go to Secondary School and later to College; having a full time job up to about two years ago; driving her own car; going on regular holidays at home and abroad (she travelled to Australia twice on her own), and she played an active part in the Clonakilty Flower Club, being an efficient PRO for a number of years.
Joan approached her work in a methodical professional courteous and friendly manner. She did not tire of writing the necessary letters or working her way through council protocols. Her sense of humour never failed her.
Joan had a disability herself and was most certainly not defined by it but chose to live life to its fullest in spite of it. Her constant good humour, energy, spontaneity and remarkable community spirit gave a legacy to Clonakilty, a challenge, for if one remarkably courageous woman can contribute so much of her precious valuable time to the welfare of her community, cannot that community look out into its streets today and ask how are they care taking this legacy?
Joan has been a loss to her colleagues and friends on the Clonakilty Access Group, reformed in April 2014, as in the last year, her humour, expertise and drive have been missed. Her passing is felt as a deep loss.
May she rest in peace.
From her friends in Clonakilty Access Group