Photo Album:
Home at Last

Mary Ellen O'Connor (right) & her sister Bridie before Mary Ellen moved to America.

Submitted by Mary Ellen's children, Tom Smith and Ellen Smith Williams
December / January 2003

We lost my mother, Mary Ellen Smith, née O’Connor last April, 2002. She was 86 years old. She emigrated from Ireland in 1929 when she was almost 14 years old from the Derries, Co. Mayo, a small village near Ballinrobe. At that time she came to the States with her older brothers James and Pat, 15 and 16 respectively.

Mom settled in with her mother’s sister Aunt Mary Weimer, née Togher in Richmond, Virginia, while the boys went to New York City where Aunt Julia, also a Togher, helped them find work and get settled. Eventually Mom joined them in New York after several years in the south.

As time marched on, situations changed. Pat went back to Ireland in the late 1930s. Mom married Hugh Smith from Williamstown, Co. Galway and sadly James died in the early 1950s. Eventually Mom and Dad had two children, Tommy and Ellen. By that time, More was a true New Yorker. She worked at various jobs in the New York City school system, first in the kitchen, then in the custodial department.

After Dad died in 1963, Morn started to make regular trips back to Ireland reconnecting with her family. There were seven brothers and sisters still in Ireland and England.

Mom retired in 1981, moved from Manhattan to Queens and lived comfortably there until 1999. It became obvious she could not live on her own anymore. At that time, Ellen moved her out to Oregon with her family. She talked about home much of the time. At first home meant New York, but gradually, she reminisced more and more about home in Ireland. How she would love to see Muddy and Faddy again. These were the affectionate names the family had for their parents.

When she died, it was decided collectively on both sides of the Atlantic to take her home, indeed to bury her with Muddy and Faddy. This was a celebration by the O’Connor family for one of their own. Her children and grandchildren traveled from the States, to be met by her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews from different parts of Ireland and England. Fifty family members met at Cong Abbey in the town of Cong, Co. Mayo to bury Morn with her parents Ellen and Thady O’Connor and to celebrate her life.

Even though we, the second generation, had spent our lives miles apart, an ocean apart, the strong bond of family was never as evident and as important to us. The second, and now the third generation have bonded and will stay bonded. The world has indeed become a smaller place. ♦

One Response to “Photo Album:
Home at Last”

  1. Beautifully written, Ellen. Even though it’s many years later since you wrote this, your account of our extended family gathering in Mayo still resonates with me. I remember it with great fondness.
    In arranging your mother’s burial at home in Cong, and having brought various strands of the family together for that purpose, you created connections among the generations on both sides of the pond. As you say, these generations will remain bonded – and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.
    Thanks Irish America for archiving my cousin Ellen’s report for posterity.
    Ellen, with fond memories of your mom, Mary Ellen, my mom Agnes, our grandparents Muddy and Fady and everyone else.
    Celine

    PS: I remember Aunt Mary Ellen as a smart, independent, witty woman. She sent clothes parcels from America to our home in Ireland in the 1960s. She was generous, incredibly kind and great fun. So glad I got to spend a little time with her in Queens.

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