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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Marge O’Connell, words such as resourceful, generous, and selfless come to mind, but what will be her lasting legacy is her unending devotion to her family. She was a loving wife and devoted mother to be sure, but she just may have argued that nothing was better than becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother. Marge was a vital part of the community she called home, and she generously gave of her time and talents for the betterment of others in ways both great and small. She was never still and a firm believer in doing things to the best of her ability in everything she did. Marge accomplished so much of which to be proud, but it was her family who was her greatest source of pride and joy. Life will never be the same without her here, but her spirit will continue on in the lives of the precious ones she leaves behind.
It was great to be an American during the decade that is often recalled as the Roaring Twenties when ballroom dancing, jazz music, and radios were signs of the time. Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh took the world of flight to new heights, and with all the advancements in technology these were some of the most prosperous years our country has experienced. It was during this exciting time that Meyer George and Ruth Heffner Wenning were filled with great anticipation as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as spring colored the city of Euclid, Ohio, with its beautiful hues in 1923. Their wait was over on May 13th when the baby girl they named Marge drew her first breath in Cleveland. She was one of two children in her family, and she was raised in the family home alongside her brother, Jack.
Surely it is no surprise that Marge was a bustle of activity while growing up just as she was as an adult. She excelled in horseback riding and spent some time working at riding camps during the summer, and she also attended summer camp. Later, Marge worked there as a counselor. She was a longtime campfire girl, played the piano and flute, and while at Lake Erie College she was a record holding hurdler. Marge was also a talented softball player who considered playing for the Women’s Softball League.
Education was always of the utmost importance to Marge. She completed her BS in Chemistry from Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, and went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Biochemistry from University of Rochester in New York. While there, Marge was part of the Manhattan Project team.
It was while in graduate school that Marge met the man who would change the course of her life forever. After falling in love they were married, and together they welcomed seven children into their hearts and home. Marge completely devoted herself to being a wife and mother, and she made it seem effortless to keep everything with everyone running smoothly. She was the most extraordinary person at multi tasking, keeping things organized and efficient, and working hard in everything she did. Marge also created a welcoming home, not only for her family but also for all her children’s friends as her door was always open.
When she wasn’t busy at home, Marge was off keeping busy blessing others in the community. She was a longtime volunteer with the Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, and with the food pantry at St. Joseph Catholic Church. For years she patiently taught kids how to swim as an instructor at Marfia Swim School, and she was also so appreciated for her years of volunteering with the Girl Scouts of America. She was the district cookie chairwoman for the Girls Scout of America, and everyone knew her whenever she came into the local Girl Scout office in Kalamazoo. A talented bowler, Marge always had a high average and used the heaviest ball allowed for females. She bowled on teams for several years, winning many trophies and awards along the way including a gift certificate to a local butcher that she used to buy a special roast for her family nearly every Christmas. Always active, Marge also loved outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, swimming, cross country skiing, and most of all riding her bike, which she did well into her seventies. Once their children were grown, she and her husband traveled extensively including several trips to Europe. They especially enjoyed their trips to Switzerland through elder hostel and staying with a Swiss doctor and his wife as well as the German river cruise. After developing an interest in birds, Marge attended a bird watching retreat in New Hampshire.
First and foremost in Marge’s life was always her family. She was so proud of her family that grew to include seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Family gatherings were among her favorite memories, and getting everyone together was a grand affair! They all got together for Paul’s 70th birthday at Smith Mountain. In 1999, the family got together for a week long 50th anniversary celebration on Drummond Island. Both of these celebrations were filled with plenty of laughter, love, and stories from days gone by. Marge loved laughing, and her kids always knew they could get everyone going when they prompted her to share stories of the crazy things that happened at times. She was a fantastic Nana to her grandchildren, and in many ways she was just a kid at heart when her grandchildren were around as she loved getting down and playing with them on the floor. Marge was also willing to ride the roller coasters at amusement parks with them!
All who knew Marge O’Connell would agree that her zest for life was contagious. She was free spirited and willing to try new things, while at the same time she was a faithful and prayerful woman who often drew strength from the beliefs that were engraved upon her heart. Marge loved her family more than life itself, and her commitment to helping others was truly unmatched. She will be deeply missed, but the lives of countless others will be forever changed because of her love.
Marge Louise O’Connell died March 5, 2015 in Wheeling, IL at the age of 91. She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul O’Connell in 2009; and son, Philip O’Connell in 2007. Surviving are 6 children: Mark (Susan) O’Connell, Peter O’Connell, Helen O’Connell-Short (Allen), John (Sharon) O’Connell, Kevin (Margery) O’Connell and Anne O’Connell; 4 grandchildren: Adam (Sarah Allen) Short, Kelly (Will) Kirkpatrick, Rebecca (Scott) Franco and Daniel O’Connell; 4 great-grandchildren: Ruby Allen-Short, Luke Allen-Short, Will Franco and Madigan Kirkpartick; and her brother, Jack Wenning. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Monday, March 16 from 5:00-7:00 PM at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive; 375-2900. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, at 11:00 AM at St. Joseph Catholic Church. Following the mass, food and fellowship will be shared in the church hall. Burial will take place Thursday, March 19 at 11:00 AM at Newark Village Cemetery, Newark, NY. Please visit Marge’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Meals on Wheels.