July 27, 1926 – March 20, 2010
Betty O’Neill was born Elizabeth Walsh on July 27, 1926 in Wexford, Ireland, a seaport town on the Southeast side of Ireland along the St. George’s Channel of the Irish Sea. She was baptized in Poulfur Parish RC Church in a little fishing town suburb of Wexford called Fethard-on-the-Sea. At the time of her birth, Ireland had recently become an independent state from England during the War of Independence from 1919-1921. It was a tumultuous time for the newly established country and no doubt for Betty’s farmer parents, John and Mary. The depression hit hard in Ireland. In 1933, John and Mary placed Betty, the oldest of their three children, on a ship to America. Betty came to Buffalo where she was raised to adulthood by her father’s Aunt Maggie Olden. She later graduated from Mt Mercy Academy.
Betty was a beautiful young woman. She married but unable to have children, they adopted a son, Dennis Shatzel. Being divorced, she married Jack O’Neill at age 50, himself a divorcee. They were introduced to each other by a cousin of Jack’s, Donna Helig. By this marriage, Betty gained three step daughters along with more family including nieces and nephews.
Betty worked and retired from the Bell Telephone Company and gained many friends during her working years. She enjoyed playing cards with them, often visiting the casinos to play pennies or nickel slot machines. She loved to eat out with her friends and spend time with her family.
I was introduced to Betty O’Neill through my daughter, Dorinda, who married one of her step-daughter’s sons, Erik Jensen. Betty attended many of the family celebrations of birthday, anniversary, and holiday. As she aged and her step daughters moved to California, my daughter became much closer to Betty. Many of us remember that wonderful 80th birthday party for Betty a few years ago at JP’s, one of her favorite places.
Dorinda, never being close to her own grandmothers, found in Betty a dear and warm mentor and friend. Betty became Dorinda’s grandmother in many ways. Their love for each other was mutual. Many times during family gatherings, Betty would tell me how much she adored Dorinda and how much help she received from her. During Betty’s recent illness, involving surgery and a convalescent time, Dorinda, assisted by Betty’s step-daughter Jackie, worked tirelessly in trying to monitor adequate care, to encourage Betty to eat and fight to recover.
For a short time, it appeared that Betty would recover and be able to return home and live her remaining years with independence. She did return home for a few days before becoming weaker and needing a return to the hospital. On the morning of Saturday, March 20, Betty died while Dorinda was sitting beside her in the Hospice Center near Roswell Hospital. It somehow seemed fitting that my daughter, who had adopted Betty as a dear Grandmother and friend, who fussed and watched over her endlessly except for a two week vacation in February, was there at the time of passing.
May Dorinda and all of Betty’s dear relatives and friends, including those two dear and wonderful cousins who journeyed here from Ireland for her Funeral Mass at St. Peter and Paul, be blessed with peace and assurance during these day and weeks of bereavement. May all those who attended her, her step daughters, her grandsons Erik and Gregg with Larissa, feel a sense of Betty’s love surrounding and keeping them secure amid a transitory life of change, vicissitudes, gains and losses. May we all sense and believe that in the end, we indeed return to the Oneness of which we are all part, even now, but so easily forgotten as we busily traverse the roads of life here on earth.