Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Passing of a Great Lady



Today in Kingston, Ontario my great aunt, Mary O'Connor, is being buried from St. Mary's Cathedral. In your charity, please pray for the repose of her soul. Aunt Mary is the elderly lady pictured above, with my sister Andrea at her side, sitting on the porch of her beloved summer cottage at the lake. She was ninety-two years old and had led a full and colorful life. She persevered in her Catholic faith in a time when the light of faith was fading from the land, giving an example of virtue as well as generosity. Elegant and well-traveled, she was full of fascinating stories and her home was replete with souvenirs from around the world.

Aunt Mary gave new meaning to the word "feisty." She had strong opinions, especially about Americans, which she was not afraid to express. She entertained royally and could be fun at parties. However, like many old maids (and old nuns) she had the ability of putting people in their place. If Aunt Mary disapproved of someone, her very glance could wither; a single remark from her could strip a person of any pretensions of grandeur.

Aunt Mary was the sixth child in a family of eight, six of whom were daughters. A very lovely girl, my grandmother told me that in the late 1930's Mary was courted by a dashing young Englishman. They were close to becoming engaged, but the young man had a drinking problem. They quarreled and broke off their relationship. He went home to England, married another lady on the rebound, joined the RAF and was shot down by the Germans during the battle of Britain.

Aunt Mary never married. She herself told me that since she could not marry the man she loved she chose not to marry at all. She rose to the top of her profession, had many friends and was dedicated to her family, especially to her many nieces and nephews. Her work as Chief Librarian for the Canadian National Defence College helped her to see the world. As her obituary, composed by one of my cousins, says:
Mary was educated at Notre Dome Convent in Kingston and graduated from Queen's University in 1938 with Honours. She then obtained an advanced degree in Library Science from the University of Toronto. Mary initially worked as a librarian at The Nylon Plant in Kingston and later at the U. of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Subsequently she joined The National Defence College and The Canadian Army Staff College. She was the Chief Librarian for many years up to her retirement in 1978. During her time with the College she travelled with the various Defence College courses to over 72 countries and met many world leaders in the course of her official duties.
[....]
Family was always important to Mary and as her family we remembered the aunt who provided many of us with the opportunity to spend wonderful summer vacations surrounded by family. She made available to us her second cottage, “Secundus“ at Lost Bay on the Gananoque River where we were able to take our children to spend time with their aunts and uncles and cousins, thus fostering in them a keener sense of the greater family to which they belong. For this and many other things we will always be grateful. May God grant her peace.
Yes, she could be a holy terror, but we all have faults. Aunt Mary gave a magnificent example of kindness, refinement and service. She was a great lady of the old school. I am both honored and humbled to have known her and to have been her relative. Requiescat in pace!

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8 comments:

Terry Nelson said...

My deepest sympathy. Lovely story.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Terry. I am really disappointed at not being able to make it to her funeral.

Iosue Andreas said...

May God rest her soul...

Kimberly Wasson said...

Praying for the repose of her soul...what a lovely woman. God bless you and deepest sympathy.

Anonymous said...

She seems like a really neat lady! I'm sorry for your loss. May she rest in peace.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, everybody! I did not get to see her all that often, but she was the kind of person that when they are gone, the world seems like a different place.

Miss Sally said...

With deepest sympathy I write this morning. It is so hard to give up such family member. They define a family and give it anchor.

What a grand lady and teacher. I can see in picture how well she could create her point of view. Your portrait of her is beautiful to read.

Juliana said...

Memory Eternal!