Christian 10

Mary Elizabeth (McGuigan) O'Neill

March 10, 1934 ~ January 30, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old

Mary O'Neill Obituary

One evening many years ago, young Mary O’Neill, nee Mcguigan, left her office in the headquarters of NBC at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in NYC and headed for the campus of Fordham University tobegin taking night classes in pursuit of a degree.  She arrived fully prepared and organized.  As the professor began, he asked the class what they thought about the first night’s reading.  With no takers, he directed his question to Mary.  She answered.  The professor complimented her on a full and complete recitation of the assignment “…BUT…I asked what you THOUGHT.”  Mary admitted to the professor that after 12 years of parochial school, she believed this was the first time anyone in a classroom asked her opinion on the subject matter.  Offering words of encouragement, her professor said she would be the first student he came to in their next meeting.  True to his word, he did, and Mary, to the surprise of no one who knew her, came prepared and delivered.  This exchange inspired a life-long pursuit of knowledge and understanding; a desire to be ever curious…about everything!  

Mary’s recent departure was nearly 7 decades after that interaction at night school yet, somehow, it seems she left us all too soon.  A Brooklyn kid through-and-through, she was born to Peter and Maggie McGuigan, Irish immigrants from Monaghan and Mayo respectively.  Peter and Maggie’s home on Parkville Avenue was already full but they always had room for more. Mary remarked that throughout her childhood there always seemed to be some cousin or friend of the family sleeping on the couch or a cot as they began chasing their own American dreams.  This clearly made a foundational impression.  Throughout the rest of her life, Mary held a relentless dedication to family and friends – in particular making an effort to reach back and propel others forward.  The culmination of that dedication was the joy she felt, and the pride she regularly shared with others, as she watched her grandsons turn into young men.     

Her easy-going independence came from an unimpeachable inner confidence.  She knew who she was, she knew what was right, or best, for her and hers.  No one was telling her otherwise.  After graduating from St. Brendan’s High School in Brooklyn, she doubly upset the good Sisters there by not needing their advice for next steps in life.  Whatever passed for a career counselor in those days set up a job interview for Mary.  She dutifully attended but after casing the place, walked out.  When indignantly questioned by the nuns, Mary pointed out what she had observed convincing her it wasn’t the place for her and, besides…she’d already gotten herself a better job and had taken the civil service exam.  The nuns were aghast and Mary was on her way.   

She began working in administrative roles with the New York State Commission for the Blind in downtown Manhattan before taking a position at NBC.  What she really wanted to do, though, was follow her father into the NYPD.  It was a different world back then and Mary learned that her duties as a female police officer would be limited to roles she was not interested in filling.  She took her talents elsewhere but she never forgot the cultural insult that somehow being a woman marked her as less than qualified for this position.  Over the years she beamed with pride watching the maturity, success and accomplishments of her daughter-in-law, her nieces, and family friends.  She was proud of all her family members but to see times change before her very eyes carried extra import.  Years later, while her son was attending the US Military Academy at West Point,  Mary loved every opportunity to interact with female cadets, hear their stories, and lend a supportive ear or shoulder upon which to lean.  

Never one to dwell, Mary moved on and the city’s loss was NBC’s gain.  She worked at 30 Rock for years in various administrative roles eventually working for a vice president there.  She was a New York kid working and living in the greatest city in the world.  She attended Broadway plays and foreign films.  She toured Europe.  Years later she confided that, in evaluating how her life was going at that stage, she was not going to marry.  “No one interested me enough.”  It was around the same time she spent a lazy summer day at the Breezy Point Beach Club and met a young man who was a member of the club.  Sitting in the night club there after a day by the pool, the guy asked if he could buy her a drink.  She had a draft beer in front of her at the time.  Mary accepted the offer and promptly ordered a “Scotch Mist”.  After some conversation, the guy asked for her number and she smartly replied “I’m in the book” as she left the club.  He found her number and succeeded in disproving her “No one interested me enough” theory.  David and Mary spent the next 60 years together with David never letting her forget that he noticed the drink order upgrade from draft beer to Scotch Mist on their first meeting. 

Dedication to family was a given and so Mary made the difficult decision to put her professional life on hold to take care of her ailing mother-in-law.  Describing the choice as “difficult” undersells it but she was driven by a sense of duty, a responsibility to her family, and that lent her the strength to make such a choice.  Years later, after Mary and David moved to Aberdeen, New Jersey she stepped back into the workforce working in administrative roles for the Monmouth County Parks System and was a long-time civilian employee of the Department of the Army at Ft. Monmouth. Her final and longest-served role there was as the secretary to the Post Chaplain.   

To boil Mary’s life down to a series of jobs and roles does her a disservice.  She was much more of a force than that.  She was a joiner but if there wasn’t an activity already in place to join?  She  created something for others to join her.  She helped organize protests against banks in Brooklyn in the 1970s for unfair lending practices and red-lining, worked on multiple censuses, started investment and consumer clubs within her community at Oak Point.  A rabid Duke basketball fan, Mary rarely missed a Blue Devils’ game on tv.  Driven by that need to be ever-curious, she was a voracious reader.  To the last, her daily newspaper was sacred.   Each newspaper was read with a pair of scissors nearby because she was sure to think of one person or another as she read articles and would cut them out to pass along.  “Just thought you’d be interested in this.”  The end table next to her front door always had a small stack of wisdom to be shared with people who came to mind as she read one article or another.  She had a reputation as a person to go to for answers.  There were so many phone calls seeking Mary’s advice or input, the family jokingly (yet with much admiration) referred to her as “the Alderman”.  Ever happy to share what she knew, Mary also never hesitated to tackle new issues.  Her research done and a new slate of clipped articles or the printed results of her googling, she readily shared whatever she’d learned.  Politics were popular but investing and money management were her favorite topics.  She could squeeze a quarter out of a dime given enough time.  Back when interest rates meant something, she manually maintained a rolling ladder of certificates of deposit so complex it would’ve made a financial planner’s head spin.  Mary readily shared lessons learned through research or practice all, again, in hopes of pulling those around her ever forward.  

Throughout all the above and anything else we could possibly write about her, Mary’s life was guided by an unwavering faith in God –a faith so strong and so lived it was inspiring and even aspirational to those around her.  She quite literally grew up in the shadow of St. Rose of Lima in Brooklyn.  Wherever she went in life after leaving those shadows, Mary found comfort, community, and strength in her Catholic faith.  She drew a resilience, or serenity, from it that enabled her to handle whatever was put in front of her.  It was all part of God’s plan and she knew, when her time was over, she would be welcomed into His Kingdom with open arms.   

Mary is survived by her son Bill, daughter-in-law Tina, and grandsons Aidan & Liam. She was pre-deceased by her beloved husband David, parents Pete and Maggie McGuigan, sisters Eleanor, Margaret, and Kathleen as well as her brother Pete. 

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, February 16, 2024, at 10 AM in Sacred Heart Church, 340 Center Street, Middleboro, MA 02346.   Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend.   Interment will follow in Saint Mary Cemetery.  

There are no calling hours.   Please omit flowers. 

In keeping with her philanthropic spirit, memorial gifts in Mary’s name to any of the following organizations would be greatly appreciated: 
 
The Margaret Corbin Women’s Leadership Forum​
c/o Gift Operations 
West Point Association of Graduates ​
698 Mills Rd​
West Point, NY 10996​
https://alumni.westpointaog.org/giveonline 
Reference “In honor of Mary E. O’Neill” 
 
Graymoor Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement​
ATTN: Development Office​
41 Old Highland Turnpike​
Garrison, NY 10524​
Www.graymoor.org 
 
Holy Angels, Sisters of Mercy​
6600 Wilkinson Blvd​
PO Box 710​
Belmont, NC 28012-0710​
Www.HolyAngelsNC.org     
 
Middleborough Council on Aging 
558 Plymouth St 
Middleborough, MA 02346 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Services

Mass of Christian Burial
Friday
February 16, 2024

10:00 AM
Sacred Heart Church of Saint Isidore Parish

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