MARY LOUISE H. (BACKMAN) O’CONNOR
Mary Lou was born in Long Island City, New York. She was raised during the Great Depression and Prohibition eras, and described it as "wonderful". She was the only child of the late Joseph and Helen Backman, and although she never much cared for being an only child, she says she had a childhood like no other. With an uncle in show business, her house was filled with performers, actors and artists alike. Her father would be playing on the piano, her mother would have a trunk of costumes for the taking. It was magical.
She met her husband, Richard (Dick) O’Connor, at the young age of 12 in Pine Bush, New York. They were engaged by the time she was 16, and married at 18. They raised five beautiful children together: Richard O’Connor (deceased), Lynn Pisciotta of Levittown, NY, Sharon Finizia (deceased), John O’Connor of Westerly and JoAnne Gowen of Pawcatuck, CT.
Having grown up as an only child, Mary Lou took great pride in the large family that she created. She will not only be missed by her children, but she also leaves behind 12 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 7 great-great grandchildren, not to mention the Turco family of Westerly that she all but adopted as an additional daughter and 4 additional grandchildren.
For a short while, with a few kids in tow, Mary Lou ran a 17-room boarding house in Manhattan. She also delivered a home birth with no medical background. While her husband was overseas in the Navy, she worked on the intricate little pieces that made up bombs…because as she said it, “women had little fingers and this was work they could do”. When she moved to Groton, CT in 1980 to help her youngest daughter raise her family, she eventually wound up working for housekeeping on the maternity floor for The Westerly Hospital.
In the later years of her life, she was asked by a granddaughter if she had any regrets, if she would change anything… Her answer was “No. Who could ask for more? Whether the things that happened were good or bad, I think they helped to make me better. I hope. I’ve only ever wanted to help, not hurt, and I think I did that. My life was good”. Mary Lou was the kind of person who never judged, who always took in a stray, who made a person feel heard, who loved fiercely, who took nonsense from no one, and who would always give the dose of tough love that was needed.
Mary Louise O’Connor passed away at The Westerly Hospital on March 2nd, 2019, she was 94. In the days leading up to her passing, she was endlessly surrounded by family, but of course, she waited until she was on her own to go home…she always had to do things her own way.
A Funeral Service will be held at Gaffney-Dolan Funeral Home, 59 Spruce St, Westerly on Saturday, March 16th at 12 noon. Burial will be private. For online condolences please visit www.gaffneydolanfuneralhome.com