Helen E. O'Neill, a retired social worker and longtime Guilford resident, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease Nov. 1 at Keswick Multi-Care Center. She was 85.
Helen E. Hausamann was born in New York City and raised in Union City, N.J. She was a 1941 graduate of Emerson High School.
She worked as a sales associate at Macy's department store in Herald Square and as a licensed practical nurse before her marriage in 1946 to Lawrence Richard O'Neill.
"When she was working at Macy's, she bumped into Greta Garbo one day in the elevator," said a daughter, Siobhan O'Neill of Eldersburg.
She joined her husband in Baltimore, where he had taken a job with VanSant Dugdale, a Baltimore advertising agency, a year earlier.
Mr. O'Neill, who had been the agency's copy chief and later a vice president, died in 1963.
"Suddenly, she was left with nine children at home who ranged from 3 months to 13 years that she raised on her own," said another daughter, Deirdre O'Neill of Federal Hill. "She was considered a Loyola Scholar because she went to Loyola College at night and earned her bachelor's degree three years."
In 1968, Mrs. O'Neill earned a degree in psychology and in 1970 went to work at the Rosewood Center as director of social services.
She earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Maryland in 1975 and continued working at Rosewood until retiring in 1996.
Mrs. O'Neill was a member of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church for 40 years and was a daily communicant at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge, where she regularly attended 7 a.m. Mass.
"She had been president of the parish council at Blessed Sacrament and sang in the choir. She visited the sick and the homebound," Deirdre O'Neill said.
At holidays, Mrs. O'Neill invited to dinner those who had nowhere else to go, family members said.
A lifelong liberal Democrat and civil rights activist, Mrs. O'Neill did not allow her children to attend any club, organization or public place that discriminated against African-Americans, family members said.
Mrs. O'Neill, who lived on Norwood Road, was a member of the Emerald Isle Club.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. today at St. Pius, 6428 York Road.
Also surviving are a son, Michael O'Neill of Abingdon; five other daughters, Kathleen O'Neill of Baltimore, Sheila Donahue of Eldersburg, Maureen Ciesielski of Towson, Sharon O'Neill of Catonsville and Moira Atkinson of Rodgers Forge; and 12 grandchildren. Another daughter, Pegeen Brown, died in 2007.