BEVERLY — Colleen O'Shea was a founding member of a bridge club in North Beverly that met for nearly 48 years — without really ever actually playing bridge.
The 79-year-old mother of four children, including Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th), died Sunday, leaving behind her husband of 57 years, Dan, her children and five grandchildren. She was remembered as a caring woman and good friend Tuesday.
"She had a great sense of humor," Lynette Iannantuoni said.
Born Colleen Smith, the woman who spent most of her life living near Christ the King Parish was raised near St. Sabina Parish in Auburn Gresham. Her grandfather built her childhood home at 7818 S. Loomis St. in 1914.
She and Dan O'Shea later moved to Brainerd before settling in the 9000 block of South Leavitt Street in North Beverly in 1968.
Iannantuoni moved into the house behind the O'Shea family in 1970. She also had four children, as did Joy Kuchler, who lived across the street from the O'Sheas.
These young moms would frequently gather on their front stoops to drink coffee, chat and watch their children ride bikes nearby. One day, the group decided to start a bridge club. They played cards for about six months before giving it up as it interfered too much with the group's drinking and talking, Iannantuoni said.
"We solved all our family problems and the world's problems too. But we continued to call it a bridge club," Kuchler said.
Matt O'Shea also said his mother had a big heart and was always willing to listen. Her health had been an ongoing issue for years and included blindness, dialysis treatments, lung disease and, most recently, colon cancer.
Still, she managed to stay positive without ever complaining, he said. And she somehow always managed to turn the conversation away from herself and toward other people, O'Shea said.
"When she asked, 'How are you doing?' she meant it. She listened to every word. Even if it took 10 minutes," he said.
O'Shea said his parents lost their first child. Daniel O'Shea was born on Sept. 29, 1962, and survived just three months. He was buried Christmas Eve. That was the only time — until last year — that his mother didn't host a party on Dec. 24.
Often, these parties would include upward of 80 people, and Colleen O'Shea would insist on having some sort of present for everyone, Iannantuoni said.
"They had a big family. There were always lots of people around them," she said. "They were very social."
The O'Sheas moved to a more accommodating house in nearby Morgan Park about 10 years ago as a result of Colleen's health issues. But she would often return to Christ the King to attend Mass and visit friends.
In her earlier days, O'Shea said his mother worked at Midway Airport for United Airlines. She took a break to raise her children and then worked for three different travel agencies, often arranging honeymoons and trips to Ireland.
Celebrities were frequently stopped by media when his mother worked at the airport, O'Shea said. Jack Benny once made a point of noticing all of the "pretty girls" who were working there. That led to a newspaper photo spread of attractive women working at the airport that included Colleen O'Shea.
Besides Matt, Colleen and Dan, O'Shea's children include Michael, Annie Laurie O'Shea and Maura (Joseph) McCarthy. Her grandchildren are Brigid, Patrick, Eileen, Cate and Colleen.
Visitation for Colleen O'Shea will be from 3-9 p.m. Thursday at Christ the King Church, 9235 S. Hamilton Ave. in Beverly and at 9:30 a.m. Friday prior to a 10 a.m. funeral Mass. She will then be buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Mount Greenwood.
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