Celebration Day: La Cucina hosts memorial for Joe Drennan one month on from his tragic passing

Castletroy’s La Cucina hosted a beautiful day of celebration in honour of their recently deceased employee.

Limerick-based restaurant, La Cucina, hosted a day of celebration for their late employee, Joe Drennan, on November 13 – marking one month since his passing.

Wanting to mark a celebration of his life, rather than a memorial, the restaurant chose to honour Joe with a ‘celebration day’. This day saw their staff dressed in white, white roses adorning each table and his favourite spot on the outside windowsill, with photographs of Joe carefully picked out and placed around the restaurant. The cupcakes and cakes served in the restaurant were all dressed with white icing, and copious amounts of white wine (his favourite) flowed while candles were lit in his memory.

Explaining their reasons for organising the ‘celebration day’, La Cucina staff member Terezia said: “We wanted to put together a celebration of his life, to show how amazing he was, and because he was from Laois all his friends in Limerick maybe didn’t get a chance to go to the funeral or be there for his family – so we thought it would be really nice to bring everyone here. He was so loved by all of our customers and everyone was asking about him, so we just thought we’d put together a small bit of a celebration of Joe’s life.”

In a truly heart-wrenching tribute, Lorraine Fanneran, owner of La Cucina, commissioned a local artist to transfer Joe’s drawings of cats, known fondly as his ‘meows’, onto the glass door of the restaurant.

Joe would draw little cats on inconspicuous pieces of paper, sticking them around the restaurant for his friend and colleague Terezia to find. Even when deep cleaning the restaurant after his passing, the staff pulled out the coffee machine to find one of his drawings hidden underneath it.

On this ‘celebration day’, customers were invited to leave a ‘meow’ in the restaurant in memory of Joe – the walls filled quicker than you could imagine. Youngsters and adults alike were more than happy to crack out their arts skills and leave a tribute while they ate.

Speaking about the origins of these drawings, Terezia chatted to Limerick Voice’s Lauren Beirne, emotionally commenting: “When we were on shift, Joe would draw these ‘meows’ everywhere and the he started hanging them up in different places. Sometimes I would get texts from him saying that there were five of them, and I would have to find them all around La Cucina. We were all looking for them everywhere and we had a bit fun with them. When he came to work in La Cucina Central (now shut down), he would put them underneath of the doors and he’d text me to look for them.

One of Joe’s ‘meows’ drawn for Terezia

“The last day before he went to Berlin, he hung them everywhere around the kitchen, behind the coffee machines, and everywhere. They’re still there, believe it or not, two years later and they’re still hanging.”

Joe’s music taste also had a big impact on his ‘celebration day’. The staff had his Berlin playlist streaming from Spotify, and made sure to play Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’ – a song Terezia has particularly fond memories of.

“When Joe and I used to close the restaurant together, we’d switch on the song ‘Lost’ by Frank Ocean. We’d be cleaning and listening to that song over and over and over. He made a special playlist for me with only that one song. We would always laugh and he’d say: ‘go on, let’s play it one more time.’ We were always laughing about that.”

Customers were also invited to leave a white rose or white flower for Joe. White roses were available to purchase from The Secret Garden Florist in Castletroy Shopping Centre, although, these quickly sold out. Simply a mark of how much the local community loved Joe.

In addition to all their wonderful tributes, La Cucina chose to use this day to fundraise for a cause extremely close to Joe’s heart. Gay Community News is Ireland’s oldest LGBTQ+ news outlet and is run as a not-for-profit charity organisation. GCN is where Joe grew his journalistic wings, lapping up every opportunity to write about those rarely discussed in Irish media and determined to give a voice to the voiceless.

A fundraiser on Instagram by the restaurant has seen over €600 raised for the organisation, alongside an extremely full looking donation bucket which sat on the restaurant’s countertop and will continue to do so until Saturday, November 18.

La Cucina have reached out on social media to thank customers for their wonderful support of their special day. A post on the businesses Instagram account read: “Just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part yesterday whether it was dropping a rose, drawing a “Meow”, buying a cupcake or calling in just to say hi and being a part of something special. A big thanks to Joe’s family & friends for visiting on such a difficult day for them but I hope our little “Celebration Day” showed how much he was loved in La Cucina and the Castletroy community.”

Sleep tight, Joe.

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