The daughter of a much loved and respected former teacher has said her mother has "left a gap in the life of her beloved children and their families, her extended family and many, many friends".

Many of those from Belcoo and the surrounding areas will know Bernadette Ferguson (88), AKA 'Mrs. Gerry', from her time teaching and moulding the youth of the area through the local primary schools.

Born to Michael and Ellen Loughlin of Belleek on August 8, 1934, Bernadette was the youngest of 10 siblings. She would go on to leave a lasting impression on the children of that Border area as a teacher.

Her husband, Gerry, was from Belcoo and their daughter, Helen, explained how he would cycle from Belcoo to Belleek to meet Bernadette before the pair would cycle on to Ballyshannon to the pictures before Gerry would make his way back home to Belcoo.

They married in 1961 and had three children – Helen, Luke and Gerard – and four grandchildren, Georgia, Alan, Phoebe and Isobel.

Her son-in-law and daughters-in-law, Shane, Amanda and Mary were a huge joy to her.

For her children, her other achievements and interests were of less interest – she was their loving mother who cared for them, worried about them and was involved in their lives, always.

Impartial Reporter: The late Bernadette Ferguson.The late Bernadette Ferguson.

Following time teaching at Roscor and Marlbank, Bernadette secured a permanent post in Lattone Primary School and was principal until it closed in 1976 as the schools in the Belcoo area amalgamated to form St. Columban's Primary School, Belcoo.

"In the early 1970s, mum was awarded the Carlisle and Blake Award for excellence in teaching," explained Helen.

"The number of former pupils from Lattone who mourned her and remembered her was extraordinary. Many mentioned that she changed the educational and social landscape of the Tullyrosmearn area; families realised their worth and educational achievements became attainable.

"She truly loved teaching, and [believed that] every child was an individual with their own talents and she nurtured those talents."

Bernadette was vice-principal of St. Columban's until her retirement, where she continued to educate and instil confidence in her pupils.

"She was also a well-cherished colleague and deep friendships were formed there. When the school opened, there were three Mrs. Fergusons, hence her title from then on was 'Mrs. Gerry'!

"She embraced the changing educational methods, and the Young Ornithologists Club was one of many non-mainstream areas which was mentioned many times by her former pupils there," Helen added.

When Bernadette retired, she certainly didn’t rest on her laurels – she was on the school's Board of Governors and became actively involved in many areas of church and community.

Reading at mass, serving as a Eucharist Minister and participating in St. Joseph’s Priest’s Society were her contribution to her parish.

"She was deeply spiritual, and her faith was very important to her. The primary school guard of honour was greatly appreciated by her family," Helen said.

Bernadette was widowed at 64, and the planned retirement for her and Gerry was short, although they made trips to the US to visit their daughter and many relatives.

"She visited all her children frequently, and loved meeting people of different backgrounds and interests. Many have mentioned how she was a mentor and confidante."

In recent years, Bernadette continued gardening, embroidering, knitting and most importantly spent time with people.

She stayed in touch with young teachers, encouraged them, and kept up to date with educational developments.

The Friday Fun Club was a great new addition to her life and the life of many others in recent years.

Bernadette loved social occasions and was greatly looking forward to attending her grand-nephew's wedding in Doolin, Co. Clare next weekend.

Helen continued: "She embraced life and lived it to the full; she has left a gap in the life of her beloved children and their families, her extended family and many, many friends.

"And she was stoic; stoicism may be the most underrated of characteristics.

"Although independent, she was fortunate to have an amazing support network of neighbours, friends and relatives who were always there to look out for her when she had times of need; to drop off dinners, do the shopping on occasion, and generally check in."

The family paid tribute to the professionalism, kindness and respect of Ken Ferguson of Ferguson Funeral Directors – a former pupil – and the touching, spiritual Requiem Mass and burial officiated by Fr. Seamus Quinn.

They also thanked the staff in Ward 5 in the South West Acute Hospital, who were compassionate, professional and made a very distressing few days bearable for all the family.

Bernadette passed away peacefully on May 15 after a short illness, and is deeply mourned by her children, Helen, Luke and Gerard, her son-in-law Shane and daughters-in-law Amanda and Mary; grandchildren, Georgia, Alan, Phoebe and Isobel; and her many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews and friends everywhere.

She was pre-deceased by her loving husband, Gerry, and her siblings, May, Josie, Mick, Benny, Aggie, Kathleen, Teresa, Anne and Rose.

Bernadette's funeral took place on May 17 at St. Patrick's Church, Holywell, followed by interment in the adjoining cemetery.