Sheila Taaffe Reynolds
Sheila Taaffe Reynolds
  • December 11, 1921 - June 29, 2017
  • Illinois

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REYNOLDS, Sheila Taaffe

Sheila Taaffe Reynolds, age 95. Born in Chicago in 1921 to Joseph and Marie Higgins Taaffe. Died peacefully in her home of 45 years in Chicago on June 29, 2017. This remarkable woman was the mother of 12, grandmother of 19 and great-grandmother of 12. Beloved wife of the late Paul G. Reynolds. Dearest mother of Paul G. (Trish) Reynolds, Jr., Shaun (Suzanne), Christopher (Peggy), Tracy (August) Aleksy, the late Damien, Regina (Tom Bober) Reynolds, Sheila Trainor, the late Martha (Peter) Thomas, Molly, Jill (Dan Spitzer) Reynolds, Peggy, and Siobhan (Attila Tassy) Reynolds. Dearest grandmother of Alana (Matt) Freedman, Kara (Kevin) Garrett, Brendan Hunt, Lea (Mark Hammond) Hunt, Megan (Ryan Skidmore) Thomas, Shawn Thomas, Sarah (Michelle) Bober, Matt Bober, Andy Bober, Michael (Antoinette) Bober, August Aleksy IV, Gwen (Barry) Bookheimer, Paul "Trey" G. Reynolds III, Dylan Trainor, Erin Reynolds, Kevin Reynolds and Connor, Delaney and Shea Reynolds. Great-grandmother of 12. She is survived by her brother John Taaffe and many nieces, nephews and cousins. Her brother Joseph and sisters Mary Lenore and Anne predeceased her.
After graduating from St. Xavier University in 1943 as a languages major, Sheila joined the Army Signal Corps as a cryptographer at Arlington Hall, VA, during World War II. Sheila was commended by Military Intelligence for her top secret work cracking Japanese naval codes. After WWII, she and Paul served as Cana Conference volunteers for the Chicago Archdiocese. She was a foster mother to 5 or more unwed mothers over the years. She also took care of a foster child for 10 years. She hosted dozens of international exchange students, volunteered as a reader/ translator for Books for the Blind; served as a member of Alliance Française; and volunteered for 38 years at the Field Museum in Chicago, where she translated scientific articles from French into English among many other tasks until 2013. She continued taking classes throughout her life.
A wake will be held on Wednesday, July 5, from 3 to 8pm at Drake & Son Funeral Home, 5303 N. Western Ave., Chicago. On Thursday, July 6, visitation at 9:00 AM at Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. Wabash Ave (corner of State St. & Superior St.) followed at 10:00 AM by Mass of the Resurrection. Interment at Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, IL. Donations in her name can be sent to St. Xavier University, the Field Museum, Catholic Charities or Lighthouse for the Blind. Info at 773-561-6874 or visit


Obituary as it appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Monday, July 17, 2017

Sheila Reynolds, mother of 12, foster mother and Field Museum volunteer, dies at 95
Sheila Reynolds
(Field Museum photo)
By Joan Giangrasse Kates
Chicago Tribune
July 16, 2017, 3:57 PM

After graduating from St. Xavier University in 1943 with a major in foreign languages, Sheila Reynolds left Chicago, signed up with the Army Signal Corps and served as a cryptographer at Arlington Hall in Virginia, working on top-secret military assignments aimed at cracking Japanese naval codes during World War II.

"Her face would light up whenever she'd talk about that time in her life," said her son, Chris. "Back then she set out to aid the war effort, but along the way had quite an adventure."
Reynolds went on to marry her high school sweetheart and give birth to 12 children, among them a set of triplets. She cared for one foster child for 10 years and also was a foster parent to six unwed mothers. She served as a Cana Conference volunteer with the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese and was a volunteer reader and translator with Books for the Blind.

For nearly four decades, Reynolds was also a weekly volunteer in the Small Mammals Collection at the Field Museum, where she helped catalog hundreds of specimens and translated scientific articles from French to English.

"Sheila was this lovely little lady that accomplished so many amazing things," said Mary Anne Rogers, a biologist who works at both the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. "Every now and then I'd find myself just looking at her and thinking to myself, 'How'd she do all that and have 12 babies?'"

Reynolds, 95, died in her sleep of natural causes on June 29 in her North Side home, her family said.
Over the years, Reynolds kept old friendships alive, including one with a Chicago native and fellow cryptographer, who back then was a young intelligence naval officer but later rose to serve on the country's highest court.

"Sheila Reynolds, and her late husband, Paul, were longtime and close personal friends," retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in an email to the Tribune. "Sheila was a generous, intelligent, and extremely charming person."

According to former colleagues at the Field Museum, it was Reynolds' sharp mind and dry, slightly offbeat sense of humor that made her so endearing.

"I don't recall how it came to be conveyed, but it was understood that we would have lunch together, during which time she'd bring her neat, sensible sandwich and purchase a carton of milk," said Bob Izor, the former head of the Field Museum's Small Mammals Collection, who supervised Reynolds.
"We'd sit and discuss the state of the museum, the nation and the world in the most scathing terms imaginable. It was sometimes unnerving to be reminded that she suffered fools, if not gladly, at least politely, and that beneath the mild and super-conventional exterior there were incisive and unsentimental judgments being reached."

At 92, Reynolds was interviewed by Chicago's CBS News for the television segment "Someone You Should Know." At the time, she was taking two buses from her home on the North Side to get to the museum for her shift every Tuesday.

When asked during the interview if being the mother of a dozen kids was the secret to a long life, the diminutive, barely 5-foot-2-inch Reynolds shot back, "They at