Mary Patricia O'Conor Farley, social worker

November 17, 2008

Mary Patricia O'Conor Farley, the daughter of a Maryland governor who became a social worker and mother of five, died Wednesday of lung cancer at her Homeland apartment. She was 83.

Born the middle of five children in an Irish-Catholic family in Guilford, she moved to the governor's mansion in Annapolis at the age of 13 when her father, Herbert R. O'Conor, took office.

At age 16, at the outset of World War II, she was asked to christen a Liberty ship at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard, she recalled in a 1991 interview in The Sun.

"It was a windy day, and I wore a fur jacket over my new dress," she said. "I was excited, of course, and I had to give a little thank-you speech. The first two times I hit the ship, the champagne bottle didn't break. I kept trying, and when it finally broke, the workmen and sailors there applauded."

She was a boarding student at the old Mount St. Agnes High School in Baltimore and often brought her friends home with her to Annapolis to attend dances at the Naval Academy, recalled a daughter, Patricia Farley Marlow of Cockeysville.

At Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania, she was president of her class for four years and captain of the hockey and swimming teams before graduating with a degree in sociology in 1947, the year her father went to the U.S. Senate.

As a social worker, she tended to troubled families in Federal Hill, and in her later years could point out the homes that she had visited, Mrs. Marlow said.

In 1953, she married John A. Farley Jr., an attorney, banker and developer. They raised five children in The Orchards neighborhood in North Baltimore. Mr. Farley died in 2005.

Mrs. Farley and the children spent summers in a rambling house on 15th Street in Ocean City, back when miles of undeveloped sand dunes stretched north of the boardwalk. Mr. Farley would spend weekends at the beach, and other mothers and children would visit during the week.

"They would make us into a band, and we would bang on pots and pans to amuse them," Mrs. Marlow said.

Mrs. Farley played golf and bridge with a tight-knit group of female friends and was a member of the Baltimore Country Club, the Elkridge Country Club and the Ivy Garden Club. She volunteered with Meals on Wheels and Our Daily Bread.

"She enjoyed everyone. She treated everyone with respect," Mrs. Marlow said. "She was a very quietly and serenely confident person."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 1 p.m. tomorrow at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where she was a longtime parishioner.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include two sons, John A. Farley III of Bend, Ore., and Wayne E. Farley of Reisterstown; two other daughters, Eugenia T. Farley of Roland Park and Kiel Farley Quinn of Ruxton; two brothers, James P. O'Conor of Lutherville and Eugene F. O'Conor of Towson; and 10 grandchildren.

Julie Scharper

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