O’Donnell, Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth O’Donnell, a self-described “ordinary girl, with an extraordinary life”, having just turned 102, passed away on March 27, 2019. In fact, she was an extraordinary person who had a remarkable life. Born the month before the United States entered WWI, on the Ides of March, March 15, 1917, to Thomas J. and Elizabeth (O’Malley) O’Donnell in the Bronx, NY. The youngest of four daughters, Mary grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY. The daughter of Irish immigrants, Mary enjoyed growing up with an extended family of first and second cousins.
A child during the twenties, Mary came of age during the Great Depression. Lying about her age and using an older sister’s license and dress for the interview, Mary got her first job as a seasonal sales girl at Macy’s department store (back when there was only one Macy’s). Thus, began a long career in retail, that saw her grow as a buyer and fashion merchandising consultant, later becoming the first woman to manage Carson Pirie Scott’s New York office.
Mary had a great love for traveling and enjoyed many adventures along the way. A proud native New Yorker, Mary completed a cross country road trip before obtaining a driver’s license. She also inadvertently drove on the Merritt Parkway before it was officially opened. After WWII she travelled to Europe several times, visiting cousins in Ireland and her sister Alice in Rome and Paris.
Ever unsure of herself but fortified by the belief (instilled by her step-mother) that as long as you possessed good table manners, one need not fear any social interaction, she was fearless in her pursuit of new friends and experiences. She had a wonderful knack for making anyone she met feel special.
Following retirement in 1983, Mary moved to Avon, Ct to be near her sister’s Eileen and Alice and their families. While growing up during the Depression may have deprived her of some things, strong opinions were not among them. Mary was passionate about her Irish heritage, progressive politics (with a capital D), and Catholic faith. She was an eternal optimist and a prolific storyteller. She possessed a remarkable capacity to connect with and stay in touch with people, in some cases multiple generations of families, former-colleagues, and friends up until her death.
Mary is predeceased by her sisters, Kitty O’Donnell of New York, Alice Shea of Manchester, Eileen Akin of West Hartford, her step-brother, Monsignor Claire O’Dwyer of Baltimore, and her niece Christine Akin of Hartford. She is survived by her nephews, James Akin and his wife Eileen Brewer-Akin of West Hartford, and Peter Akin of East Hartford. Mary was beloved by her great-nephews and nieces; Wiley, Patrick, James, Olivia, and Audrey Akin, upon whom she doted.
Mary’s family would like to thank Mary, Nina, Marina, Alice and Zina for everything they did to enable Mary to remain in her home until almost the very end.
A Mass of Christian Burial will held Saturday April 13, at 10 AM at St. Mary Star of the Sea, 145 Main St (Rt 4) Unionville, Ct. There will be no calling hours, the burial will be private. In lieu of flowers please make a contribution in Mary’s name to the charity of your choice or one of her favorites: The Joseph House, PO Box 1755, Salisbury, MD 21802.

Calling Hours

Funeral Service

Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 10:00 am in St, Mary Star of the Sea Church ~ Unionville



Memorial Contribution

In Mary’s name to the charity of your choice or one of her favorites: The Joseph House, PO Box 1755, Salisbury, MD 21802

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