A memorial service has taken place in Barbados for Emma McManus, the daughter-in-law of horse racing magnate JP McManus, who died suddenly over Christmas.
In an emotional tribute to his wife, John McManus told mourners: “Life has changed irreparably for us all”.
Ms McManus (née Ledbetter) was a Trinity College graduate and the daughter of former Irish tennis star and businessman, Peter Ledbetter, and Paula Ledbetter.
The mother of three died aged 40 on December 30th.
She had been enjoying post-Christmas festivities with loved ones at the family’s private residence near the Sandy Lane hotel and golf resort in Barbados, co-owned by JP McManus, when she suddenly complained of feeling unwell.
“No words can describe the pain and sense of loss that I feel since my beautiful Ems passed away,” Mr McManus told a small group of family and friends, who gathered at Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens for the service which was also watched online by several thousand people.
“She was the very centre of our family and the person who the kids and I turned to for everything.”
Looking towards the couple’s three children Milly, Lauren and Annie, Mr McManus said: “Mummy loved you to infinity and beyond. You were the first and last thing she thought about everyday, she was so proud of you all, and loved the hugs and laughters that we regularly shared.”
Describing his wife, Mr McManus said he had “fallen in love with the most beautiful, kind and selfless person I have ever known”.
“Your smile and sense of fun will live with, and in me, forever, and our souls are intertwined for eternity,” he added.
Mr McManus, a native of Martinstown, Co Limerick, and now resident in Chelsea, London, thanked his family and friends for their “love and support during this unbearably sad time”.
The couple’s three young children brought gifts symbolising their mother’s life to the altar where a photograph of Ms McManus was laid, including a paddle tennis racket, a Werther’s Original sweet, and a cookbook.
Mr McManus tightly held and hugged his three daughters throughout the emotional service, which heard two heartfelt performances of songs by family friend Andrea Corr, lead singer with traditional Irish pop rock group The Corrs.
Introducing her performance of Billy Joel’s anthem She’s Always A Woman, Ms Corr said, “I sang this song for Emma at her wedding ten years ago, so I will sing it again for her now, because she loved it.”
Ms Corr fought back tears performing Wishing You We’re Somehow Here Again, a love song by Andrew Lloyd Webber from his musical stage show, The Phantom of the Opera.
The McManus family thanked Mr Lloyd Webber, who is a neighbour of theirs on the island, for all his “love and support”.
Ms McManus’s brother Nick Ledbetter told mourners his sister “cared most about family”.
Paying tribute, Mr Ledbetter added: “She never did anything in order to get praise, but always deserved it. Emma was elegant, loving, graceful, inclusive, intelligent, direct, fair, she had such a great sense of fun and the most radiant glowing smile which always lit up a room.”
Chief celebrant, Br Denis Hooper, Glenstal Abbey, Murroe, where John McManus was privately schooled, said: “We have all been devastated by the sadness and suddenness of Emma’s passing, there is pain in our hearts, and we seek meaning, and comfort, and peace at this time of darkness.”
Fr Chris O’Donnell, Kilmallock, said Ms McManus had been “a tremendous source of light” to her family, “and in difficult times like this, we cannot let the darkness win”.