Kathleen M. O’Connell passed away peacefully on Saturday, February 9, 2019, at St. Clare Home in Newport, RI. She was 82 years old.
She was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, on July 22, 1936. She was the daughter of the late Francis “Pete” O’Connell and Catherine Fitzgerald O’Connell both of Newport. She is survived by her brother Peter J. O’Connell (Edna) and her sister Eileen O’Connell Ahern of Alexandria, Virginia. She was predeceased by her brother-in-law Timothy M. Ahern. She also leaves her nephews Ryan F. O’Connell (Rachel) of New York, Michael E. O’Connell (Jeffrey) of Ohio, her niece Catherine P. Barrett (Jon) of Virginia and Timothy P. Ahern (Nicole) of Pennsylvania. She will be greatly missed by her grandniece Gilly O’Connell and grandnephew Timothy Barrett.
Kathleen lived an adventurous and interesting life. At the age of 17 she joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy. She began her teaching career at Bay View Academy in East Providence, RI. She was then chosen to study nursing at Salve Regina University where she graduated with honors. She then became an assistant instructor in medical surgical nursing at Salve Regina. She earned her master’s degree in education from Columbia University in 1968. Kathleen’s doctoral dissertation in nursing brought her to England and Ireland to research the Sister of Mercy archives for evidence of the order’s connection to Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War.
Kathleen served as chair of Salve Regina’s nursing department and then made the difficult decision to leave the Sisters of Mercy to pursue a career in community outreach. Her experience with war refugees, while working in Honduras for the National University’s nursing school kindled her interest in women’s health. Kathleen joined the nursing staff at Downstate Medical Center SUNY where she received tenure and served as interim dean of the program during the 1980’s. Kathleen moved back to Newport with her partner, Lee, in the 90’s.
Before her illness, she was an active member of Salve Regina’s nursing alumni council and served on the Vision of Mercy Scholarship committee. Kathleen received the 2013 Nursing Alumni Achievement Award “recognizing outstanding contributions to the field of nursing.”
Summers at Gooseberry Beach won’t be the same without Kathleen, surrounded by Lee and her Fifth Ward relatives and friends. She will be missed by all, especially her niece and nephews, who were dearly loved and encouraged by their Aunt Kathleen.
Kathleen’s family wishes to thank her caregivers at St. Clare Home for their loving attention during her residency there. Many thanks also to Visiting Nurse Service’s Home & Hospice for their kind support during the final stages of Kathleen’s illness.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 10 am at St. Augustin Church, Carroll Avenue, Newport. Burial at St. Columba Cemetery in Middletown. Visitation will be on Wednesday prior to the funeral mass starting at 8:15 am in the O’Neill-Hayes Funeral Home, 465 Spring Street, Newport.
For those wishing to honor Kathleen’s memory, donations would be gratefully accepted for the Vision of Mercy Scholarship, Salve Regina University, 100 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, RI 02840.