Obituary: Rosella O’Reilly, Long-Time Wilmette Librarian

O'Reilly, 86, got her masters in library and information science while she had five young children at home. She became the head of reference services for the Wilmette Public Library. Her funeral is Thursday.

The following obituary is from Donnellan Family Funeral Services:

Rosella O’Reilly of Wilmette, 86, long-time head of reference at the Wilmette Public Library, gregarious and loving mother of five children and ten grandchildren, and aunt to numerous nephews and nieces, died on December 29, 2012, in Evanston. She was the wife of the late Charles T. O'Reilly, Ph.D., and the sister of Edna Comiskey, who resides in Covington, Louisiana, with her husband Patrick Comiskey. She died of complications from a cardiac condition, her eldest son Terrance said.

Rosella Catherine Neilland O’Reilly, born in New York City on April 30, 1926, graduated from Manhattan's Cathedral High School, Fordham University, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Education. She met her husband at Columbia's Newman Center, a Catholic ministry at the university, and married him on June 4, 1955, at Manhattan’s Corpus Christi Catholic Church.

Early in her career, she worked at Catholic publishing house in New York, taught high school mathematics in the New York City schools, and was one of the few women in the engineering department at American Telephone and Telegraph Company, where she projected demand for services.

Her husband's career took Rosella, Charles, and their growing family from New York to Long Branch, New Jersey; to Chicago, Milan, and back to Chicago; and to Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, and then Albany, New York. The family returned to the Chicago area in 1976 and settled in Wilmette.

In the 1960s, with five young children at home, she went back to school and received a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the University of Wisconsin. She worked as a librarian for the State of New York, and then, after the family returned to Illinois, as a reference librarian for the Wilmette Public Library, soon rising to serve as head of Reference Services from 1978 until her retirement in 1992.

Every year, she helped high school students solve the riddles of their Junior Theme research projects. She assisted Wilmette writers in documenting elusive facts, found the answers that settled dinner-table debates before the age of the internet, and aided the curious in settling elusive questions; including once the menu and recipes for a meal the Shah of Iran once served President Nixon. If ever a family-member or friend asked an “I wonder” question in her hearing, they knew Rosella O’Reilly would not rest until she had found the answer.

In the late 1980s, she and her husband published a critique of the “Gourman Report” rankings of graduate programs in social work education, identifying the then-popular reference publication’s deep methodological flaws and statistical unreliability. The Gourman Report purported to evaluate undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs across the United States and internationally. It ceased publication in the 1990s.

In the 1990s, Charles and Rosella O’Reilly returned to Italy, and he taught at Loyola University’s Rome Center. During that year, she became a familiar and welcoming figure on campus and in many an art history lecture, museum tour, and archaeological exploration of ancient Rome.

In addition to her sister Edna, Mrs. O'Reilly is survived by her son Terrance; her son Gregory, his wife Cathy, and their children Patrick, Sean, and Declan; her son Kevin, his wife Sandra, and their children Fiona, Clare, and William O’Reilly; her daughter Joan, her husband James Oh, and their children Charlie, Ted, Liam, and Reilly; and her daughter Kathleen, who provided her mother with exceptional comfort and care in recent years.

Visitation Wednesday, January 2, 2013 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Donnellan Family Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd at Old Orchard Rd. Skokie, IL 60077.

Funeral Mass Thursday, January 3, 2012, 10:00 a.m. at Saints Faith, Hope & Charity Church, 191 Linden St, Winnetka, IL 60093.

Interment Sacred Heart Cemetery, Lee and Dundee Road Northbrook, IL 60062

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Charles T. O’Reilly Fund at the Loyola University School of Social Work, att: Dean, Darrell P. Wheeler, Loyola University Chicago, School of Social Work, 820 North Michigan Avenue, Lewis Towers 1208, Chicago, IL 60611.

Info: (847) 675-1990 or www.donnellanfuneral.com


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