SANDOWN — When Aline Irish stepped out of her car in front of Roger Jette's Auto Repair Inc., Darlene Jette would immediately call out to Willy, her stocky 3-year-old black Labrador retriever.
“Grandma’s here! Grandma’s here!” she would say.
Willy would wag his tail excitedly, his entire bottom half wiggling in anticipation, Darlene Jette recalled.
Willy loved Irish, she said. When Irish stopped by the shop during the winter, Willy would steal her leather gloves from her purse. In their place he would leave his treasured bone.
“She really loved him,” Jette said. “She loved animals.”
Police found Irish dead in her home at 48 Phillipswood Road in the early morning hours of Dec.11 and say she was bludgeoned to death.
Officers were responding, around 1 a.m., to a 911 call from her grandson, Patrick Irish, but neighbors said when police arrived, he was nowhere to be found.
He has since been located and is charged with the murder of his grandmother. He entered pleas of not guilty Thursday and is currently being held without bail at the Rockingham County jail.
Patrick Irish had been staying with his 88-year-old grandmother for the past couple of months, neighbors said, in order to save money and get back on his feet.
The crime was shocking, they said. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office reported that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
More than one person who knew Aline Irish said she and Patrick seemed to have a good relationship.
"He was there less than six months, probably around three," said Irish’s close friend and neighbor Nancy Moser.
Moser said she never noticed anything off about their relationship.
"I only learned of him the day before she passed," said Thomas Wilson-Frascone, another neighbor, who said he spoke to her outside her home the morning before she died.
"She said he had been staying there for a couple of months," Wilson-Frascone said. "I didn't know him, but I know that he had been doing some odd jobs for one of the neighbors and everything seemed fine."
Friends of Irish say they want to take this time not to revel in the gory details of her death, but to remember the woman they loved during her life.
“When she got out of the car, it was like the world would glow," Jette said. "She was an angel.”
Darlene's husband, Roger Jette, said he will remember Irish as the kindhearted woman who would occasionally bring him and his wife Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies.
“We lost a local angel,” he said, shaking his head from side to side. “She really was very sweet, the type of person who you couldn't not like. She was spunky and outgoing and very nice.”
Friends of Irish noted that she was a sharp dresser who loved to express herself through her clothing. Darlene Jette recalled that in the winter she wore “cute little hats, something like llama fur.”
“She was fashionable, with boots up to here,” said Moser, motioning to a spot on her calf. “I loved her so much.”
Moser said her friend was very active — driving, shopping, and leading the church choir.
In her younger years, Irish taught piano lessons and was a talented opera singer, Moser said. Irish loved flowers and decorating for the holidays. She was close with her five children and their families, according to Moser. She had just sent out her Christmas cards.
“She was a very caring, sharing girl,” Moser said. “I never thought of her as an old woman.”
Friends also said Irish befriended every animal she met.
“We both loved chickens,” Moser said, and they often gifted each other presents related to the birds.
Wilson-Frascone said he bonded with Irish while talking about his job working with injured birds of prey.
“I would clip her cat’s nails every few months, and we would sit and catch up and chat. She loved that cat,” Wilson-Frascone said, then laughed.
Irish had a black-and-white cat named Murphy. Murphy was known to get jealous when Irish would pay attention to other neighborhood cats.
Roger and Darlene Jette said they are nervous for Willy to find out about his friend.
“He doesn’t know,” Darlene Jette said, glancing over at her dog who was looking up at her with big, black eyes and holding a tennis ball in his mouth. “She was his best friend.”
Murphy the cat, Wilson-Frascone said, is being cared for by Irish’s family. They found the cat hiding in a hole burrowed into Irish’s bed.
"She was just so kind and caring. She was very positive," Wilson-Frascone said. "A lot of people knew and loved her. It is definitely going to be different here in the neighborhood not seeing her."