Widespread sorrow has been expressed throughout the local community following the passing of Mrs. Hazel Johnston, one of Enniskillen’s most popular and respected business owners.

Hazel Margaret Johnston was the elder daughter of Robert and Evelyn Freeburn and grew up on the family farm at Loughgall in Co. Armagh. She and her sister Sylvia had a younger brother, Keith, who continues the running of the farm having taken it over from his father a number of years ago.

Hazel was born on July 8, 1957 and for her early education attended The Cope Primary School at Loughgall. After this she moved to Clounagh Junior High School and later to Portadown College.

Throughout her school days she enjoyed netball, hockey and tennis as well as her academic studies. When she left school, she joined the Ulster Bank and it was her work with the bank which first brought her to Enniskillen. She was a well-known, friendly face in both the Mart branch in Forthill Street and in the main branch in Darling Street.

Hazel married Cyril Johnston in 1981 and they had a son, Ryan (Martina) and a daughter Carina (John). In recent years she had become a proud grandmother to four grandchildren: Josh, Louie, Ruby and Hugo. She played a very important part in the lives of her grandchildren.

Eventually she left her job in the bank to care for her father-in-law, Victor Johnston. Later she joined Cyril in the family business and it was here – in the Jolly Sandwich Bar – that she became best-known locally.

She was the ‘face’ of the shop and she loved the business; in particular, she loved meeting her customers. The business had many regulars as well as those who visited less often and Hazel always had time for a friendly word with all of them.

Hazel had many qualities which contributed to the success of the business: above all she was extremely hard-working, generous and sincere.

Prestigious awards

Under Hazel’s management, the Jolly Sandwich Bar won a number of prestigious awards. These included on one occasion Café/Bistro of the Year, awarded by Licensed and Catering News and was won despite stiff competition. As recently as 2020 her business was awarded the title of Best Ulster Café at the Irish Restaurant Awards.

Hazel ensured that the business became integrated into the local community and she hosted a street tea-party for the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations.

Aside from her work, Hazel loved to cook at home and to entertain her family and friends. She had a well-deserved reputation as an exceptional hostess. She loved her garden too, working hard to develop it and keep it in immaculate condition.

In past years she had many successes competing with the Erne Flower Arrangement Society. She also enjoyed dressing in style and getting an occasional night away with her friends when time allowed. Overnight trips to Dublin were her particular favourite.

Hazel was someone who kept herself busy virtually all the time. She had a ‘bucket list’ of things she wanted to do eventually but unfortunately her life was cut short with many of the boxes still not ticked. She was diagnosed with cancer in July 2020 and underwent an operation and treatment.

To those who knew Hazel well, it was no surprise that she fought her illness vigorously, but quietly, privately and without fuss. Indeed, after her passing on February 14, 2022 many people remarked that they had no idea she had been so ill.

Hazel touched the hearts of so many people and left a huge mark on the lives of many others. She always had a smile and was a great encourager who saw the good in everyone. She was devoted to her family and outstandingly loyal to her friends. She will be greatly missed not only by her family and friends, but also by the many with whom she came into contact through the course of running her business.