Katherine 'Joan' O'Connor, a lifelong resident of Belmont died Wednesday, February 3, 2016. She was 85.
Joan was born on November 4, 1930, the youngest daughter of Thomas L. and Florence M. (Hagerty) O'Connor. At age five, she lost her eyesight from scarlet fever, and her older sister, Mary Frances, died of the disease. Their brother, the Honorable Francis P. O'Connor predeceased Joan in 2007. She was a lifetime parishioner of St. Joseph's Church in Belmont and became a lay Associate of the Dominican Sisters of Peace.
After studying at the Perkins School and Carroll Center for the Blind, Joan attended Mt. Trinity and Rosary Academies in Watertown and graduated from Regis College in 1954. In 1965 she earned a Master's Degree from the Boston College School of Business Administration, writing a thesis on the economic value of employing the handicapped. She worked as a transcriptionist at Mass Bonding and at Harvard Business School.
In 1958 Joan made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, praying and hoping to regain her sight; she received other blessings instead—the ability to trust God, trust other people, and live a full and happy life that made a difference in the lives of so many. With the friends and family who meant so much to her, she rode her tandem bicycle, trekked the 20-mile "Walk for Hunger," went skiing in Vermont and sailing on the Charles. She played the accordion and piano, hosted the annual family Easter party and egg hunt, and offered hospitality and a listening ear to countless guests in her home, including some nieces and nephews who spent extended time at her home. Joan loved watching over her grand-nieces and grand-nephews and teaching braille to schoolchildren. She also loved to travel. She crossed the U.S. by car, taking a turn at driving on the salt flats in Utah, and explored Bolivia, Germany, and Ireland with travel companions.
Joan greeted everyone with a huge heart, a strong spirit, a spontaneous laugh, and open arms. She had insight and vision, shaped by her faith. She will be missed by her sister-in-law, Ann E. O'Connor of Shrewsbury; her nieces & nephews, Kathleen O'Connor and Thomas Kelly of Brunswick, Maine, F. Patrick O'Connor Jr. and Elisa of East Falmouth, Brien O'Connor and Susan of West Newton, Maureen Chamberlain and Richard of Northborough, Ellen O'Connor and Michael Haire of Shrewsbury, Ann Iaccarino of Shrewsbury, Jane Lizotte and David of Shrewsbury, Joyce O'Connor Davidson and Andrew of Shrewsbury, Thomas O'Connor and Leigh of Shrewsbury and Matthew O'Connor and Susan of Pacific Palisades, California; 31 great nieces & nephews; one great-great nephew and longtime family friend and housemate, Jennifer Granquist.
Family and friends will honor and remember Joan's life by gathering for calling hours at Heald & Chiampa Funeral Directors - The Sumner House, 5 Church Road, On the Common, Shrewsbury Center on Friday, February 5th from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and again on Saturday morning before leaving in procession to Saint Mary's Church, 640 Main Street, Shrewsbury, where her Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline .
In lieu of flowers memorials in her name may be made to Hon. Francis P. O'Connor '53 Scholarship Fund, c/o Boston College Law School, 885 Centre Street, Newton, MA 02459 or the Home for Little Wanderers, 10 Guest Street, Boston, MA 02135.
"Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see." Helen Keller