Mary Joyce O’Neill
Mary Joyce O’Neill of Rye Brook, N.Y., passed away on June 13, 2018. She was 91.
She was born May 24, 1927 to Carroll L. and Nora Livingston in Plattsburgh, N.Y. After graduating from Plattsburg State Teachers College (now SUNY Plattsburgh) in 1947, she taught school in Harrison, N.Y.
She married James D. O’Neill of Harrison in 1948 and resided in Westchester County for the rest of her life. She was devoted to her children, grandchildren, her church, charitable activities, and wide circle of friends.
She was predeceased by her devoted husband, James, sister Joan C. Livingston of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. and Philip A. Livingston of Plattsburgh, N.Y. Mrs. O’Neill is survived by her daughters, Ann Mulderrig (Robert) of Stamford, Conn. and Peggy Corcoran (Tom) of Old Tappan, N.J., and her son, James D. O’Neill Jr. (Anna) of Rye Brook. She is also survived by her four grandchildren, Katherine M. Corcoran and Mary E. Corcoran, Robert K. Mulderrig and Kevin J. O’Neill; her nephews Michael, Philip, and Chris Livingston, and niece, Cheryl Favro.
At her Funeral Mass, her grandchildren spoke lovingly about their ‘Nanan’ Joyce, as she was known to family and friends.
“Her personality alone was able to light up any room and touch many lives. Joyce would talk to anyone around her, which explains why she had so many friends. She spread joy to others and would never want to pass any opportunities to help or to care. Joyce often said, ‘Don’t let opportunities pass. It is too easy to go through life on autopilot and far too easy to look back and wonder, where did the time go.’”
Mrs. O’Neill held three things dear: family, Church community, and bridging. All three were the ingredients in her ‘soup of life’. They were added in equal proportions and she always tried to improve the recipe.
One ingredient was her family history.
She was part of a great and historical New York family whom she loved and was proud of. The first member of the family to arrive in America was Robert Livingston, who emigrated from Scotland, via Holland, because he and his family suffered persecution as Presbyterians. After that, the Livingstons multiplied.
The Livingstons attained their greatest achievements during the American Revolutionary War. Philip Livingston was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; his brother William was a signer of the Constitution. William served as Governor of the Colony of New Jersey and continued as the first Governor of the American State of New Jersey.
By coincidence, the day Joyce O’Neill passed, June 13th, was the date she and the O’Neill family had planned a family outing to visit the historic Jay homestead in Rye. In 1774, John Jay married Joyce’s ancestor, Sarah Livingston. Jay later became the first Chief Justice of the United States of America. The important ingredient here was the Livingston family’s community service obligation and responsibility.
Another ingredient was her devotion to church. For seventy years, she was a loyal parishioner in three nearby churches, beginning with Our Lady of Fatima in Scarsdale. She moved to Rye’s Resurrection Church in 1972, and then to St. Paul, Greenwich in 1995. It is worth noting that she continued her service counting collection money at Resurrection on Monday mornings for over 40 years while also contributing fully to the St. Paul community.
The third ingredient was her love of bridge (the card game) and, more importantly, her desire to bridge all the gaps she observed. She used this skill to break the ice with new bridge players, always adding to her wide circle of friends. She was able to bridge divisions between people and to connect them with herself and others.
She was actively involved in the Woman’s Club of Rye and the Rye Women’s Interfaith Committee. Joan Cohen, a member of the Committee, recalled, “The Committee was founded in the mid 1970s as an offshoot of a group of Interfaith couples by Rye clergy. The women decided to meet on their own and formed the Committee with representatives from each house of worship. We decided to meet ten months of the year with each house of worship in charge for a year on a rotating basis. Joyce was one of the founding members. Her unwavering commitment to Interfaith relations was an important part of her life.” Ms. Cohen added, “Joyce loved learning about all faiths, including why we felt so deeply about our personal faith and how it served us in our everyday lives. Over the years, she was a constant presence in our monthly meetings, Thanksgiving Services, and yearly conferences. Her keen intellect, curiosity, openness and acceptance of all our differences was something we all respected and loved her for.”
At a celebration of Mrs. O’Neill’s life at St. Paul Church, her daughter-in-law, Anna Ho-O’Neill, said, “Mom was the family center who kept us together. We celebrated every occasion — birthdays, Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year. You name it, we celebrated it. Besides keeping her own family together, she reached out to her nephews and nieces.
“She was a woman of strong faith and hope. Despite her arthritis, she rarely complained. She was grateful for every day she had on this earth. She always reminded us that we should appreciate every moment and not let go of things in life that have the most meaning to us. She taught us to do the right thing and to do good for people.”