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Mary Jo (O'Donnell) Leahey

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Mary Jo (O'Donnell) Leahey

Well known community benefactor

PALM BEACH, FL -- Mary Josephine "Mary Jo" (O'Donnell) Leahey, 95, a member of a well-known Lowell family and for many years a resident of Palm Beach, Florida, died Sunday evening at her home in Palm Beach.

Formerly of Lowell, she also summered at Rye Beach, New Hampshire.

Mary Jo was the beloved wife of the late Dr. Brendan D. Leahey who died January 23, 1992.

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, January 27, 1916, the daughter of the late Thomas J. and the late Mabel (Neil) O'Donnell, she attended Lowell schools and was a graduate of Lowell High School.

In 1937, Mary Jo graduated from Lowell State Teachers College (now known as UMass Lowell) where she received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Music.

During her college years, Mary Jo sang, danced and acted in summer stock theatre productions in New York and New England.

As a junior in college, she attended a music conference with the school in New York City. While dining at Sardi's restaurant in the theatre district, she was approached by one of the Marx Brothers who suggested that she take a screen test for the movies. After consulting with her family, Mary Jo took the screen test and was offered a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox and later a similar contract with MGM Studios. Ultimately, she declined both opportunities and went back to Lowell, where she married the love of her life, Brendan D. Leahey.

After college and prior to her marriage, she worked as the Music Supervisor for the Martha's Vineyard school system.

Following a fulfilling life as a wife, mother, grandparent and supporter of her community through volunteerism and charitable giving, Mary Jo continued to give back to the City of Lowell with her talents and intelligence as a visionary, as a philanthropist and most importantly, as an inspiration to all who knew her.

A lifelong Friend of the Arts, Mary Jo was the Founder and primary benefactor of the UMass Lowell Mary Jo Leahey Summer Band Camp which began in 1997. The camp provides the opportunity for high school music students to be instructed by college and professional instructors and conductors to help pursue their dreams of a career in music.

She was also a former Director of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation and an Honorary member of Vesper Country Club.

In 1997, Mary Jo received the UMass Lowell Distinguished Alumni Award and in 2005 was recognized as Woman of the Year by Girls, Inc.

More recently, she was awarded an Honorary Degree with a Doctor of Humane Letters from UMass Lowell in 2008.

In addition, Mary Jo also received the 1789 Society Award from Georgetown University in 2008 for her dedication and commitment to financial aid, ophthalmology and cancer research.

A communicant of St. Edwards Church in Palm Beach, FL, she was also a communicant of the Immaculate Conception Church when she had resided in Lowell.

Active in the Palm Beach community as well, she was a member of the Palm Beach Civic Association, the Society of the Four Arts and the Beach Club of Palm Beach.

She is survived by a daughter, Alice D. Leahey of Venice, CA; two sons, Atty. George B. Leahey and his wife Donna (Gilooly) of Tewksbury and Dr. Alan B. Leahey and his wife Kathy (Smith) of Allentown, PA; two grandsons, Atty. Brian W. Leahey and his wife Sophia (Cigliano) of Lowell and Atty. Mark B. Leahey and his wife Stephanie (O'Connor) of Washington, D.C.; three granddaughters, Kelly E. Leahey of Arlington, VA, Colleen M. Leahey of New York City and Jennifer A. Leahey of Allentown, PA; two great-granddaughters, Parker M. Leahey and Meritt C. Leahey both of Washington, D.C.; a sister-in-law Ann M. (Muras) O'Donnell of Lowell; and her lifelong friend Molly McCarthy of Lowell.

She was also the mother of the late Grant Leahey, grandmother of the late G. Brent Leahey and sister of the late James F. O'Donnell, Sr. and the late Atty. Thomas J. O'Donnell.

LEAHEY -- In Palm Beach, FL, November 27, 2011, at her home, Mary Jo (O'Donnell) Leahey, formerly of Lowell and Rye Beach, wife of the late Dr. Brendan D. Leahey. Friends may call at the O'DONNELL FUNERAL HOME, 276 PAWTUCKET ST. at Fletcher from 4 to 8 P.M. Friday. Her Funeral will take place from the Funeral Home Saturday morning at 10 o'clock followed by a Funeral Mass at the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH at 11 o'clock. Burial in St. Patrick Cemetery. Those wishing may make contributions in her memory to the Immaculate Conception Church Building Fund, 3 Fayette St., Lowell, MA or the UMass Lowell Mary Jo Leahey Summer Band Camp, c/o Office of University Advancement, One University Ave., Southwick Hall 250, Lowell, MA 01854. E-condolences/directions at Arrangements by Funeral Directors James F. O'Donnell, Jr. and John W. Crane -- (978 or 866) 458-8768.

Funeral Home
J.F. O'Donnell & Sons Funeral Home
276 Pawtucket Street Lowell, MA 01854
(978) 458-8768
Published in Lowell Sun on Nov. 30, 2011
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