Mary Leona Merrick McDonnell
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Mary Leona Merrick McDonnell
  • June 12, 1927 - April 19, 2017
  • Wilmette, Illinois

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Mary Leona (Lee) McDonnell, nee Merrick was born into eternal life on April 19, 2017. Lee was the beloved wife of the late George Franklin McDonnell and the treasured mother of seven children: Mary Diane (William) Lapelle; Mary Louise (James) Carney; George (Cathleen Schepers); Robert (Susan Roberts); Mary Deborah (James) Glemkowski; Peter (Michelle Wyciskalla); and Mary Kathleen (Martin) Bredemann. Lee also was the devoted grandmother of 24 and loving great-grandmother of 13. She was the daughter of the late James Lloyd Merrick and the late Marjorie (Pierce) Merrick, the elder sister of the late Joan Leslie Waddick and the aunt of Mary (Remy) Stephenson, Jack Waddick, Jean Heer and the late James Waddick.

Born of Irish and Scottish descent, Lee was a graduate of St. Killian's elementary school, Longwood Academy and Mundelein College, where she graduated in 1949, magna cum laude with majors in English and Journalism and a minor in History.

Lee was Editor of the Mundelein "Skyscraper" newspaper in her Senior year, when she met George F. McDonnell, after being asked to edit a newspaper for an annual meeting of the National Federation of Catholic College Students. (McDonnell was Chairman of the meeting, attending Loyola University under the GI Bill after serving in the Army upon graduation from Senn High School.) They married November 11, 1950, and had seven children from 1952-62. McDonnell became Executive Vice-President at CNA Insurance, then head of U.S. operations for Zurich American Insurance Co., before his sudden death in May, 1976 at age 49. Lee was also 49 at this time. With faith, talent and determination, Lee finished raising her seven children while she returned to a career in Public Relations at St. Joseph Hospital, operated by the Daughters of Charity Religious Order. Lee had an impressive 25 year career, rising to Vice-President of Public Affairs, which included directing the departments of Public Relations, Marketing, Development, Strategic Planning and Government/Community Relations. Lee worked 12-14 hour days until the age of 75, retiring November, 2001.

In 1988, Lee was honored to be named an Affiliate to the Daughters of Charity, the highest honor given to a layperson by the Order. Upon announcing her plans to retire, the Daughters of Charity asked Lee to be the first Chairman of the Board of St. Joseph Services, a new community outreach in the Humboldt Park and Austin neighborhoods of Chicago. Lee also was asked to become Chairman of a capital campaign at St. Francis Xavier Parish, her local Catholic parish. The campaign raised $3.1 million and concluded in 2011.

Despite her many career responsibilities, Lee never missed a special event in the lives of the over 60 members of her family. She took everyone on trips to such places as Disneyworld, Denver and Lake Geneva and hosted countless family celebrations in her home. She loved every member of her family and never missed an opportunity to tell them, or share time with them.

In recent years, Lee continued to play bridge, read three newspapers a day, do crossword puzzles, follow Chicago and Notre Dame sports teams and enjoy life in every way with her family and friends. She looked for the best in every person she ever met. Lee was a woman of great faith, dignity, grace, intelligence and boundless energy, a humble, remarkable person who quietly exuded warmth, generosity, kindness and a positive outlook on life everywhere she went. She will be missed more than her family can possibly say, but they hope she will live on through their attempts to follow the example she set in so many facets of life.

A celebration of Lee's life will be held on Sunday, April 23rd from 2PM until 5PM at Wm. H. Scott Funeral Home, 1100 Greenleaf Avenue, Wilmette IL followed by a Mass of the Resurrection on Monday, April 24th at 10AM at St. Francis Xavier Parish, 524 9th Street in Wilmette. In lieu of flowers, memorials would be most appreciated to St. Joseph Services, 1501 N. Oakley Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60622 and St. Francis Xavier Parish, 524 9th Street, Wilmette, IL 60091. For additional information, please contact Wm. H. Scott Funeral Home, 847-251-8200.