June Close W.I.S.E.

18th May 1957 – 23rd March 2020

In January 1957 the peace in Northern Ireland was shattered by an IRA attack on The Royal Ulster Constabulary Barracks in County Fermanagh. June was born in Belfast a few months later and her childhood would remain as troubled as the country she was born in for most of her life.

A twelve year old June was just becoming aware of the political troubles when her mother passed away aged of just thirty seven. Her death left her family of six children in turmoil. Three daughters the youngest Carol being just two years old and three sons were left to face an uncertain future with further tragedies to come.

The three sisters were aged between fourteen and twelve and it was Lynn the eldest along with June who became the mother figures to their three brothers and the youngest sister Carol.

Her devastated father continued to support their family but June’s life was to change for ever and trouble would stalk her for the rest of her life.

When Lynn married, taking her younger sister Carol to live with her, June inevitably took responsibility for her brothers.


The Three Sisters Carol, June and Lynn

Tragedy was to leave the family traumatised yet again when they learned that their enigmatic devoted sister Lynn had taken her own life. Somehow June found the strength to console the family and help them face the future.

When asked about what June was like before this tragic event, her sister Carol remembers her as being extremely confident, wild at heart and a bright light who lit up any party but was always there and always loving.

Carol describes their adolescence as growing up like ally cats with little to help them survive apart from the intensity of their sisterly bonds. For all their difficulties June and Carol enjoyed many “wild” adventures.

June developed a passion for racing cars and found many ways to experience joy rides for the thrill of speed. 

Yet she was also serious and conscientious, taking on several different jobs in order to support her family. 

June enjoyed singing, emanating happiness and joy as she did. She often performed in clubs and although she wasn’t the advertised act she was always encouraged to be on stage to wow the audience.

When she met the love of her life they soon began a family but their relationship didn’t last and they parted company before they could marry. Thereafter, a few alternative partners failed to develop into enduring relationships and June accepted that life would be spent without a partner but she realised that with her family she would never be entirely alone.

In spite of those empty personal days she considered being the mother of her own two daughters as her prime responsibility. Her girls were to develop into smart beautiful young ladies who would ultimately bring their own children into her life. June deeply loved her grand children who never failed to make her laugh.

Junes happy life as a mother and grandmother was to be shattered yet again when she suffered the first of three strokes. On each occasion she was in hospital for months at a time enduring extreme pain and discomfort. 

Her rehabilitation was painfully slow and at one point her toes had to be broken if she was ever to walk again. Horror would soon follow when she was advised that she could possibly lose a foot. Her reply was “Do what you need to do but it won’t stop me, I’ll never give up” Whilst she happily kept her foot, metal plates did have to be removed and reset all over again repeating the agony yet again.

Her prophecy of never giving up was to be realised when she discovered a love of horses. Although she had never been astride a horse in her life she saw an opportunity to rejoin the world she thought she’d lost and still on her own terms.

Typical of her powerful spiritual energy and personality she drove herself to become one of the United Kingdom’s top riders for Riding for the Disabled. June had managed to perform yet again for if she couldn’t climb on stage she was at least able to climb astride a horse.

Some years past in relative comfort but on the 9th January 2020, June was yet again taken into hospital.

This time with an assumed chest infection but the doctors soon discovered that her pain and discomfort was being caused by cancer of the lung. They found a tumour was wrapped around her arteries, affecting her airways with no hope of any surgical intervention. A shocked June was given two months to live. 

The news energised her strength of will and resilience and in order to avoid further distress for her family she stoically began to arrange to her own funeral.  Junes brother was also in distress and was looked after in a care home. He was himself living on borrowed time. For ever the mother, June wished to save Jackie’s family further stress so she arranged his future funeral too, to make sure his family could grieve in peace. 

Her brother Jackie had been traumatised by Junes end of life diagnosis and facing life without her affected him badly.  Due to the acceleration of his deterioration, his brother and sister urgently visited him live through a mobile phone app. He managed to smile, wave and blow kisses which sadly turned out to be only hours before his passing. He had survived until the 17th July 2023. Along with his daughters his sister Carol and his brother were by his side. Once again because of the Covid lockdown his other brother was regrettably unable to attend his funeral in person. The troubles seemed to continue unabated.

When a hospice was suggested to June, she rejected the idea in horror. With her two daughters by her side she finally conceded and was soon to realise that a hospice was not a place to die but a place to live.

To celebrate that realisation, she created and published a video promoting how a hospice can be a positive and enjoyable experience. The video was a huge success and subsequently celebrated on local TV networks. In spite of everything June and her daughter’s continued to raise funds in support of the hospice and all its activities.

While in the hospice and in a moment of powerful emotional creativity, June and her youngest sister Carol wrote a legacy poem for Junes daughters and grandchildren. The inspiration being that when they needed a word with their Mum or “Granny June” they would be able to hear her voice resonate through those verses. Even though Carol is a published poet it took them some time to create verses that truly reflected Junes legacy in verse. At some point in the process June who was out of breath looked up at her sister laughed saying “Bloody Hell Carol it does go on lol!” 

During those distressing last two weeks, her daughters knew that their Mum had wanted to ride just one last time. Whilst her physical condition made that impossible they realised that the next best thing could be a horse drawn carriage. They arranged the very best and against all odds managed to get their delighted mum on board. The horse cheerfully pulled the coach around the streets and as it did June waved, sang and laughed at the pure madness of the event but shared her joy with everyone she passed.

Just as she had throughout her life June had found the spirit to pass on her natural instinct of goodwill and kindness.  All those she passed though unaware of her illness felt the power of her joyful glow and waved back smiling themselves.

The song “These boots were made for walking” defines how June dealt with everything life threw at her by simply saying “Deal with it and move on”.

June spent her life giving and her last desire was simply for the living to at least celebrate her life by gifting love and kindness to others no matter how bad they may feel themselves.

True to that philosophy June sponsored World Cancer Day but left her youngest sister Carol to continue her legacy. Regrettably lockdown prevented Carol from being present not only at the end but also stopped her sharing her lifelong love and respect at her funeral.

June finally walked quietly into her next life on 23rd March 2020.