Farewell to Our Beloved Maureen O’Hara
By June Parker Beck, Editor, Maureen O'Hara Magazine
December / January 2016
I.M. Maureen FitzSimons Blair
August 17, 1920 – October 24, 2015
Maureen O’Hara has died at the age of 95. Born on August 17, 1920 in Dublin, the legend of the silver screen passed away on October 24 at her family home in Boise, Idaho.
Her family said in a statement: “It is with a sad heart that we share the news that Maureen O’Hara passed away today in her sleep of natural causes. Maureen was our loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, The Quiet Man.”
Asked in a 2004 interview with Patricia Harty to sum up John Wayne, her co-star in The Quiet Man, she said of her life-long friend: “Such a fine man is very hard to sum up in one sentence. A decent, fine, wonderful man, loved his family, adored his kids, was very loyal to his friends – never let a friend down – even if he had to put himself in danger he would do it… So there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe a person like John Wayne.”
A champion of Ireland who believed that hard work could make dreams come true, Maureen was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in a ceremony in New Ross in August, 2011. She had previously been honored as the magazine’s Irish American of the Year in 2007. One of her proudest moments, she told Harty in the same 2004 interview, was when she was Grand Marshal of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, 1999. But she was not just about St. Patrick’s Day, she belonged to our Thanksgivings and our Christmases too. In Miracle on 34th Street, she plays Doris Walker, the harried event director for Macy’s who persuades Edmund Gween to take over as Santa Claus. Her family said that she “especially loved it when children recognized her from her role in Miracle on 34th Street and asked her: ‘Are you the lady who knows Santa Claus?’ She always answered: ‘Yes I am. What would you like me to tell him?’”
Though Maureen was a proud American citizen, she remained Irish to the core. As she wrote in her memoir ’Tis Herself, “Being an Irishwoman means many things to me. An Irishwoman is strong and feisty. She has guts and stands up for what she believes in. She believes she is the best at whatever she does and proceeds through life with that knowledge. She can face any hazard that life throws her way and stay with it until she wins. She is loyal to her kinsmen and accepting of others. She’s not above a sock in the jaw if you have it coming. She is only on her knees before God. Yes, I am most definitely an Irishwoman.”
Tony O’Reilly, the founder of the American Ireland Fund, once said of Maureen: “There is no doubt that Maureen O’Hara is a descendant of some great Celtic queen, and should Ireland have a queen today, surely it would be she.”
It was with this kind of honor and respect that the star was laid to rest on November 9. Her remains were carried into St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church near Washington DC. to accompanying music from The Quiet Man by the 45-strong Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band from Chicago. Following requiem mass and eulogy delivered by her grandson Conor FitzSimons she was laid to rest next to her beloved husband Brig. General Charles F. Blair at Arlington National Cemetery.
It was a perfect ending for an Irish woman who inspired so many with her career in Hollywood, her love of family and pride in her Irish heritage.
God bless you Maureen. Thank-you for being you and for the legacy you’ve left for everyone. ♦