SISTER ACT: Kelly Cassidy, left, and her  younger sister Tayla Hourigan taken in April this year.
SISTER ACT: Kelly Cassidy, left, and her younger sister Tayla Hourigan taken in April this year.

Two 'families' to gather at McKittrick Park for farewell

McKITTRICK Park South Grafton will bathed in red and white today as family, friends and colleagues gather from around Australia to celebrate the life of Kelly Cassidy.

Ms Cassidy, a former South Grafton Rebels strapper, who became the executive assistant to St George-Illawarra CEO Peter Doust, died in Wollongong on July 2, from the effects of a stroke, aged 41.

Her mother, Romayne Hourigan, said her daughter's death would leave a huge hole in both her "families".

"Kel has worked with Saint George for 20 years since she first went down there and got work at the St George Leagues Club as a part-time barmaid," Mrs Hourigan said.

"She was so totally devoted to her job she came back here to visit us twice a year, we were her part-time family. The rest of the time she was with her St George family, 24/7."

Mrs Hourigan said her daughter had a stroke in her new Wollongong home after attending a Dragons game on June 28 and died in hospital surrounded by both her "families" on July 2.

"From what we can work out she came home on the Thursday night and had a stroke sometime between then and when she was found on Saturday morning," she said.

On hearing the news Mrs Hourigan, her husband Max and their extended family headed to Sydney to be by Ms Cassidy's side.

"St George was fantastic. They had a car waiting for us at the airport and they took us straight to the Wollongong Hospital. It was the longest journey of my life," she said.

"The ward where Kel was, was chock-a-block with people from the club, executives, players and past players and families who Kel had worked with or knew.

"And they stayed the whole time she was there to make sure she was never alone.

"The club has done everything they could.

"They've paid for the funeral, their accountant has put all Kel's affairs in order.

"There's nothing they haven't covered."

Mrs Hourigan said her daughter wanted to be an organ donor and from her arrival set in place the procedures for harvesting organs to be transplanted.

"They kept her going until Monday, when the time came to turn off the machine. I knew it was what she wanted to do, but it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," she said.

But the family feels it is justified now, as they have learnt four people are now alive and have a chance of life because of her organ donation.

"That's what gives us some peace," said Mrs Hourigan.

"That Kel is still out somewhere there still giving."

Mrs Hourigan said her daughter had only made her intentions clear about organ donation recently.

"We'd been to dinner together two months ago and the topic came up," she said.

"She told me that's what she wanted to do, so I knew when the doctors said there was nothing more they could do, that's what Kel would've wanted."

Mrs Hourigan said St George would be sending a couple of bus loads of people to Grafton and former club people from around Australia were arriving for her send off.

"We had a personal message and flowers from Wayne Bennett," Mrs Hourigan said.

"She and Wayne were really close during his time at the club, so that was special."

The chairman of St George Illawarra Rugby League Club paid tribute to a long-term and popular identity at the club.

"Kelly has been a significant part of the Dragons family for almost 20 years," he said.

"We are all deeply shocked and saddened by her passing."

Today's celebration of Ms Cassidy's life will be held at McKittrick Park from 11am. The theme is red and white, the colours of her two favourite football clubs.