THE extraordinary generosity of a Stradbally woman who left €30m to charities was the talk of the town last week.
Although it was well known that Elizabeth O’Kelly was wealthy, the true extent of her wealth and kindness was not fully revealed until last Wednesday, when details of her will emerged.
The 92-year-old, who died in December 2016, bequeathed a remarkable €6 million each to five charities ‒ the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Kidney Association, Irish Society for Autism and Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
The generosity of Mrs O’Kelly, a quiet and unassuming person who lived in a beautiful but unostentatious Georgian house in Market Square, was already well known in the Stradbally area. She regularly contributed anonymously to local causes and at one stage donated €12,000 to help fund the painting of the Sacred Heart Church in Stradbally. She also left €10,000 to the parish of Stradbally in her will.
Born at Tours in France in 1924 and daughter of Yorkshire gentleman Richard Obray Sykes, her parents died when she was only two and she was raised in Dublin by her paternal aunt, Annette Kathleen Sykes.
Mrs O’Kelly moved to Stradbally more than 12 years ago and previously lived at the Dower House in Emo Court near Portarlington. She had no children with her late husband, Major John William O’Kelly, whom she is buried beside at Moyglare Cemetery in Maynooth, Co Kildare. She was a shareholder in Clylim Properties, which has extensive property interests in Dublin and made most of her fortune from the sale of the Leinster Leader Ltd in 2005.
The RNLI said it was “deeply grateful and humbled” by the generosity of Mrs O’Kelly, who for many years volunteered her time to help out at the RNLI stall at the RDS in Dublin.
The ICS also paid tribute to Mrs O’Kelly, who successfully battled cancer in the 1980s. An ICS spokesperson recalled: “She knew first-hand the challenges cancer patients face and the positive difference the ICS makes to them in their time of need. In the 1980s, when Mrs O’Kelly was diagnosed with cancer, only three out of ten Irish cancer patients survived. Today, six out of ten do. This is thanks in no small part to the generosity of the Irish public.
The ICS won’t give up until Ireland’s cancer services are truly world-class and every patient has the best possible chance of surviving and thriving after a cancer diagnosis. We won’t settle for anything less and we know Mrs O’Kelly would not want us to.”