This month we are delighted to meet with Dick and Eibhlín Henggeler, new owners of the recently refurbished Rose Hotel Tralee, in memory of their cherished daughter Dorothy whom they lost to an illness at the young age of 27 on April 3rd 2014. They tell us about their love for Kerry and new found friendships in Tralee, their daughter and her love for life and of course the exciting plans in place for the hotel.
You are both very welcome to Kerry, tell us a little bit about how the Rose Hotel became a reality for you both?
Dick tells us ‘ Eibhlín with being born and raised in Kerry it was always a dream of ours to invest in Kerry, because the hospitality in Kerry is so positive that was always the way we were most likely going to go, we had obviously looked and examined properties in Killarney but when this hotel became available and with its links to the Rose of Tralee and ours too, we felt it was right for us, so last year we acquired it and we have invested a major refurbishment since, we have lots more plans for it but as with everything things take time.’
Eibhlín you are from Kerry you must be very proud to be welcoming everyone here to Kerry this August
‘I am thrilled and very proud I am from Kerry and while I don’t know that many people in Tralee it’s been a wonderful experience getting The Rose Hotel to where it is today. We would have travelled to Kerry down through the years and would have always passed Tralee by, I guess it was our wonderful daughter Dott that brought us to Tralee with her connection to the Rose of Tralee, and we have never looked back since. I am so looking forward this year to welcoming all the extended Rose families from all over the world here to Tralee and to the Rose Hotel and we hope their stay will be memorable and that they will do what happens best at the Rose of Tralee Festival.. They will create many new friendships that will remain for a lifetime, and if we can be part of that and showcase Tralee and the county of Kerry to all those people we are delighted to do that. We love to go out and boast about Ireland it’s in your bloodstream to do that if you live away, Ireland is always in your heart and is your home and you just want to tell everyone you meet about Ireland and bring them home to get a taste of it’.
The hotel is dedicated to your wonderful daughter would you like to tell us a little about her?
Dorothy was born following her sister Treasa (who passed away two and a half years previous to Dorothy’s birth) she was a very special person, her name means ‘Gift of God’ Even as a little girl at Montessori school her teachers said she had something special she got a great sense of spirituality from one particular teacher, at the time we thought it wouldn’t last but it did, it was a trait she took with her through her whole life. She was passionate about life and family were very important to her, her Irish culture was extremely important to her and was dedicated to it immensely, she was so proud of her Irish roots and listened to Radio Kerry on her iPod all the time, she loved her trips to Kerry each year and connecting with her Irish family was the most important thing to her. She was a huge supporter of the Dr Crokes football team from a young age, she came to Ireland to socialise while her brother Franz came to discover Ireland. She spent many summers here in Ireland working in the hotel industry. She got her dream job working for Tourism Ireland in America but Ireland was always home, she made friends very easy and always had a welcome smile for all who knew her, and indeed those who didn’t know her but crossed her path always came away feeling like they knew her all their life. She was sick for 5 months and passed away just before she was to reach her 28th birthday. She left a legacy that we still feel here today and we also feel she is writing the book of our life now’.
One lovely memory Eibhlín recalls is while attending a funeral in her home town Killarney a young girl came up to her and said ‘ are you Dotts mum’ this was a huge shock to Eibhlín as it was her home town and to be referenced as ‘Dotts mum’ just showed how popular and well accepted Dorothy was here in Kerry.
The Rose Hotel (Fels Point) has been associated with the Roses for the past number of years but are you looking forward to welcoming the many tourists from all over the world to the newly named Rose Hotel? It must feel like bringing many people home for you?
Yes indeed for those not involved in the festival it’s sometimes hard to understand the closeness that is there amongst the girls and the family and friends that come from far and near to support, we were lucky to have had that experience with Dorothy and now that we are here in the Rose Hotel and it’s the base of the festival we are able to share that experience with more families and let them live out that joy. There is a great sense of pride when your daughter is wearing the sash representing your country or county and we are forever indebted to Dorothy for affording us this opportunity. The arrival of the roses on the steps of the hotel is one of the most wonderful experiences to have, the emotion and excitement as they all arrive full of joy for the wonderful week ahead, and we are delighted to be here to welcome them.
You have done an amazing job in the hotel to date have you lots more plans?
Yes we have come a long way in the last 12 months and it is now at the nice stage we can add touches to it, of course we have a lot more to do because with a hotel of this size there is always something else to do. We are very fortunate that we have an excellent management team and a superb staff in all departments so that certainly makes the job easier. Our designer Kate Cronin has done an amazing job and was a pleasure to work with throughout the process and we are so lucky to have someone of that talent in our team. We are also looking at the next development which is the Dome, we are willing to support this but it’s going to be a big project and will need to be a community thing really. The Rose of Tralee company is also on hand to support and we are confident of other support coming forward to ensure that the Rose of Tralee gets the permanent home that it deserves.
What’s next for Dick and Eibhlín?
To continue the challenge… the challenge that is The Rose Hotel, keeping the standard the people expect of the place, to continue the feel of energy and excitement as you walk in the door, coupled with that we will continue to make trips back home to Baltimore as our son and his family live there so they are also a huge part of life for us, as every grandparent knows those little ones are the light of your life so we want to afford as much time to them as we can, those years fly by and it’s so important to cherish and make memories that will last a lifetime. We would like to thank the people of Tralee for welcoming us here to The Rose Hotel and supporting us, and to our extended family here the staff, thank you all for your commitment and hard work, to help us carry on Dorothy’s dream every day,
Photos by John Walsh Photography.