Helen O'Connell

Helen M. O'Connell

Monday, April 11th, 1932 - Friday, July 24th, 2020
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With profound sadness, we announce the passing of our beloved mother, Helen M. O’Connell, 88, of New Castle DE and Clayton NY, from natural causes. Helen was cherished for her selfless devotion to family and friends. She was a wonderful role model, teacher, innovator, guide, and mentor to all who knew and worked with her. She was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Church, Fayetteville NY and St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Clayton NY.

Born in Auburn NY, the eldest of five children to Michael F. Fogarty and Cecilia O’Toole Fogarty, Helen attended Holy Family School. In those days, gifted students were often given the opportunity to advance more quickly than classmates and Helen graduated magna cum laude at age 16.

Helen received her bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst University, Erie PA. She earned her master’s degree and completed the course work for the doctorate in Language Arts at Syracuse University. She began her career in 1953 at Jamesville-Dewitt Senior High School where she taught Social Studies, English, and French. She retired from the same school district after completing forty years of teaching. Helen was proud to be a part of the development team that made the concept of Jamesville-Dewitt Middle School a reality. At the Middle School, she taught Language Arts and Reading. Upon her retirement, she continued to return to the Middle School almost daily as a substitute teacher for another five years. Truly born to teach, Helen loved working with young people of all ages and abilities.

Among her professional activities, Helen served on the Middle Atlantic States Evaluation Team and was recognized for her service. She often was asked to grade English essays for the New York State Regents system. A member of the first faculty at the opening of J-D Middle School, Helen was a key component of the team that wrote curriculum for the new teaching model. She served as the master teacher for generations of student teachers from Le Moyne College and Syracuse University.

Helen’s favorite leisure activities included traveling internationally. A yearly summer tourist to Canada, she also visited many European countries, the British Isles, plus Korea and Japan. Often traveling as part of the entourage for her daughter’s choral concert tours, she was always willing to carry the medicine bag, start the clapping at performances, or write the travelogue. She was an avid reader, a gourmet cook, a fine arts enthusiast and a regular theatre goer. Each summer would find her relaxing and entertaining at her summer home in the beautiful Thousand Islands NY.

Helen was preceded in death by her parents and husband, J. Daniel O’Connell, as well as her sister Maureen Mac Lemale, brothers William Fogarty, James Fogarty and Thomas Fogarty and niece Laura Mac Lemale. She is survived by her children, Kathleen O’Connell Shannon of DE, Edward D. O’Connell (Anne Marie) of PA, and her beloved grandson, Daniel T. O’Connell of PA. Nephew Kevin Fogarty (Angela) and their sons Matthew and William reside in NY as do cousins Mary Fogarty Casey (Robert) and David Fogarty.

A funeral mass will take place on Monday, August 10, at 11:00 am at Immaculate Conception Church, 400 Salt Springs St., Fayetteville NY (13066) COVID-19 protocols will be in effect. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Helen’s name to the music programs of Immaculate Conception Church and/or St. Mary’s (521 James Street, Clayton NY 13624.)
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Service Details

  • Service

    Monday, August 10th, 2020 | 11:00am
    Monday, August 10th, 2020 11:00am
    Immaculate Conception Church, Fayetteville
    400 Salt Springs Street
    Fayetteville, New York 13066
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Jenna Lucente

Posted at 03:21pm
A beautiful obituary for an extraordinary woman. To all family members, and especially to dear Kate, I send my deepest sympathies.

Pierce Barbara

Posted at 12:43pm
I am so sorry to hear of the passing of Helen. I first knew her as Helen Fogarty when she was a young teacher and rented a room with us (my parents - Dorothy & Carlisle Pierce) when she began teaching in Jamesville.
I remember as a young girl attending her wedding - I think it was up on Onondaga Hill.
I attended the Jamesville-DeWitt Schools and also became one of the teachers hired when the J-D Middle School was started. What a time that was!
It was a privilege to know your mother through all of those years and I hope you are comforted by your memories and the thoughts of all of us who loved her.
Affectionately, Barbara Pierce

Phee Price

Posted at 02:30pm
I am one of the lucky ones to have known Helen and be part of the family. I'm sending you all my deepest sympathy and know that I will be praying for you in the weeks and months ahead. Love you!

Tom Muench

Posted at 11:15am
Helen was my mentor when I started teaching at JD. I was probably her most misbehaved student. She was like a mother to me and certainly an amazing teacher. We taught together till she opted to go to the middle school and I stayed 9n the high school. She was truly amazing. If she is not in heaven - then none of us will make it. She is truly a saint . My prayers are with the family. I will make every effort to make the funeral. Tom Muench

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