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Ella G. O’Conor, volunteer and family matriarch, dies

Ella G. O'Conor enjoyed spending time with her family.
Ella G. O'Conor enjoyed spending time with her family.

Ella G. O’Conor, a family matriarch, volunteer and daughter-in-law of a Maryland governor, died in her sleep July 8 at Mercy Ridge retirement community in Timonium. She was 101.

The former Ella Galvin, daughter of John T. Galvin, a lumber company executive, and his wife, Mercedes Smith Galvin, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Cedarcroft Road in Cedarcroft.

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She was a 1939 graduate of the old Mount St. Agnes High School in Mount Washington, and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1943 in interior design from what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University.

She met her future husband, Herbert R. O’Conor Jr., through mutual friends. He was the son of Herbert Romulus O’Conor, who had been Maryland attorney general and governor from 1937 to 1947, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and his wife, Eugenia Byrnes O’Conor.

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Gov. O’Conor died in 1960.

Mrs. O’Conor wore a wedding gown that she had designed when she married her husband in 1944, and later settled in a home on Churchwardens Road in Homeland where they had lived for many years and raised their four children.

Mrs. O’Conor volunteered at the Maryland School for the Blind and was active in many organizations including the Woman’s Club of Roland Park, Three Arts Club and the Woodland Garden Club.

When the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen opened in 1959, Mrs. O’Conor was an original communicant and sacristy volunteer. She was also a member of the Catholic Evidence League.

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She maintained a lively interest in politics and was an avid reader of biographies and enjoyed traveling.

A social person with a large circle of friends, Mrs. O’Conor enjoyed spending time with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Her life was defined by faith, family and friends,” said a daughter, Lisa O’C. Banknell of Rodgers Forge. “She had a joie de vivre about her.”

Mrs. O’Conor lived in The Orchards before moving with her husband in 2001 to Mercy Ridge where they were original residents.

Mr. O’Conor, a lawyer and humanitarian, who wrote widely on hunger, poverty and related politics, died in 2003.

The Rev. J. Joseph Hart, chaplain and executive director of Greater Baltimore Medical Center for Spiritual Support Services, is a cousin of Mrs. O’Conor.

“She was our family matriarch and the greatest champion of those she loved,” he wrote in an email. “She, without a doubt, is the quintessential supporter, admirer and giver of affirmation to all, no matter the circumstances. She loved all of unconditionally and with great compassion always. May she enjoy the eternal life she so deserves.”

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Saturday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her son, Herbert R. O’Conor III of Towson; two other daughters, Mercedes O’C. Cathey of Nottingham and Mary Galvin O’C. Wilson of Pinehurst; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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