Maureen Catharine O'Connor
October 31, 1936 - August 24, 2013
Resident of Mountain View
Maureen Catharine O'Connor died peacefully on Saturday, following a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to Manuel and Florence Henderson O'Connor. She was proud that her father had worked for Higgins Industries during World War II, manufacturing the landing craft that would prove indispensable in victory.
Maureen graduated as Valedictorian from Gretna High School. Her classmates voted her "Most Likely to Succeed" and "Most Studious." She was awarded a scholarship to St. Mary's Dominican College in New Orleans. While in college, Maureen studied chemistry and biology and served as the President of Kappa Delta Pi, the educational honor society. She received her B.S. degree cum laude, in 1958. She then received her M.A. in teaching from Tulane University in 1960.
Maureen lived life with tremendous courage and determination. She began her career as the only high school chemistry teacher in her Louisiana town. The government sent her to the University of Hawaii, where she studied the effects of nuclear radiation under the tutelage of Dr. Edward Teller. She returned with large pieces of equipment for the town to monitor the effects of radiation, should it be involved in nuclear war. She then taught in Colorado, a particularly happy time in her life, and moved to Virginia when her husband accepted a position with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C.
Maureen was a fan of Sir Winston Churchill and she exemplified his famous quote: "Never give in. Never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense." When she first moved to California as a widow with two toddlers in tow, Maureen applied for teaching positions but there was a hiring freeze. Undeterred, she was driving around and saw a sign that read "Syntex" and she wondered what the company did. She went in and asked if they had any job openings. They replied that they were hiring chemists. She said she had studied chemistry and asked if they had a typewriter. She revised her resume on the spot, submitted it, and she was hired as a chemist in a lab. Later, Maureen would rise to become one of the first female Vice-Presidents in the pharmaceutical industry, travelling all over the world to over 30 countries, managing quality control of Syntex's products.
Following her retirement from Syntex, Maureen pursued her many talents and gifts. She became an accomplished painter and exhibited her work in local galleries and her loved ones were always grateful to receive her original art work. She played the piano beautifully and also composed music—whether for a dear friend's wedding or for the occasions of her grandchildren's births.
Maureen also completed an impressive genealogy of her family, tracing its existence to long before the Magna Carta. However, she remarked upon completion of the project that it is not what is in your blood but what you do that counts.
Maureen had an adventurous spirit and remained very physically active throughout her life. For her seventieth birthday, she hiked across Iceland with her beloved friend, Paula. She loved Jazzercise and yoga and her friends in these classes. She attended often, even in the midst of her cancer battle. She recounted the time her instructor Jerome exclaimed "Mo is in the house," following an absence due to treatment. She also enjoyed hiking and showing her grandchildren the beauty of California, including Big Basin and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Maureen lived her Christian faith by serving others, often assisting older neighbors and friends with their needs. She attended the same Bible Study for over 25 years. As always, she was an excellent student, and an independent thinker, never taking anyone's explanation as truth without resorting to the text of the Bible itself. Her race was run well and now she will receive the prize. I Corinthians 9:24.
Maureen is pre-deceased by her husband, Thomas Eugene Elrod, and her parents. She is survived by her sister Moonyeen Emerson and her husband David Emerson, brother-in-law David Elrod and his wife Doris, her sons Hal Connor Elrod and Kyle Elrod, daughters-in-law Jennifer Elrod and Su-Mien Chong, and beloved grandchildren Elizabeth, Catharine, Kieran, and Alexander.
A Memorial Celebration of Maureen's life will be held on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at LIMA & CAMPAGNA SUNNYVALE MORTUARY, 1315 Hollenbeck Ave., Sunnyvale. She will be interred later in a family ceremony at Culpeper National Cemetery.
In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center or the
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Aug. 30, 2013
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