Mary Eileen Aquiline (known as Eileen), 89, died on Saturday, September 23, 2023, in Glen Allen VA.
Shy as a girl, Eileen grew up to be fun-loving, outgoing, and good-humored. She made many friends in her youth whom she kept for life. She was open-minded and openhearted: her default position was acceptance of all and prejudice towards none. She loved a good party (whether she was the host or a guest), was the first one on the dance floor at weddings, and pushed back the table and chairs in her dining room to teach her kids The Alley Cat, The Hully Gully, and Irish reels. A master at holidays, Eileen made decorating Christmas cookies an event, threw epic New Year’s Eve parties, elevated birthdays to feast days, and built unforgettable last-minute DIY costumes for Halloween. She was an avid reader from girlhood on, an expert crossword puzzle solver, and a champion Scrabble player. In mid-life, she took a variety of college courses for her own personal enrichment, discovering an interest in art and a flair for painting.
Mary Eileen O’Shea was born May 21, 1934, in Pittsburgh, PA, the oldest child of Michael and Nora (Stack) O’Shea, who were Irish immigrants, making Eileen an Irish citizen by descent. Mike and Nora handed down to Eileen and her siblings a strong Irish identity, firm ties to the O’Shea and Stack clans back in County Kerry, and the traditions and values of their Roman Catholic faith. Eileen attended Holy Rosary School in Homewood and then the all-girls St. Paul’s Cathedral High School, where she performed in the operettas and excelled at both academic and business classes.
After graduation, Eileen traded academics and the offer of a scholarship to Mount Mercy College (now Carlow University) for a profession that put her business studies to use. She was an exceptionally skilled administrative assistant at design and manufacturing giant Bacharach, Inc., at industrial corporations such as Westinghouse and Air Carbon, and for preeminent interior designer Louis J. Talotta at Parke Interiors.
It was at the Bacharach bowling league that she met Michael (“Mike”) Aquiline, who happened to be there with his brother-in-law Al, a Bacharach employee because they needed an additional bowler. Struck by Eileen’s beauty, Mike marched up, introduced himself, and brashly asked if she was already “taken.” She laughed at him. And the rest is proverbial history. Mike and Eileen were married on May 30, 1956. They were together for 67 years. She embraced and was embraced by Mike’s family as if they were her own.
Eileen was an intrepid global traveler with a curiosity about other places, people, and cultures. At 18 she took her first of many trips to Ireland, followed over the years by excursions to Italy, Russia, the Dominican Republic, Israel, Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and France, among others. She cruised the mighty Panama Canal by boat to the magnificent beaches and rainforests of Panama and Costa Rica, traversed the dramatic Copper Canyon by train in Mexico’s Sierra Madres, and journeyed by car down the panoramic Pacific Coast Highway exploring the western limits of the mainland U.S. Eileen traveled most of the United States, often at the wheel of the family van driving cross-country and visiting national sites with her family. Visitors from abroad were often treated to spur-of-the-moment road trips with Eileen to places like Niagara Falls, Washington DC, and Gettysburg. During those days of vagabonding and adventure, Mike dubbed her “The Gypsy.”
Eileen served for many years as a local Democratic Committee Member, Judge of Elections in her voting precinct, and campaign volunteer for candidates up and down the ballot. She felt privileged to be present for the selection of four presidential candidates and their running mates at the Democratic National Conventions from 1984 to 1996, celebrating especially in 1988 at the historic nomination of the first woman ever to run on a national ticket.
Eileen suffered the most devastating experience a parent can endure when her son Michael died in 1987. She mourned him for the rest of her life, even while learning how to move forward. She also never got over the loss of a stillborn baby, whose absence she always felt deeply.
She was also preceded in death by her parents; mother-in-law, Pasqualina Aquiline; sister, Sally O’Donoghue; and many relatives, in-laws, and close friends.
Besides her husband Michael, Eileen is survived by her children Carol, Christine Schwartz (Craig), Carlyn, Carin (Christopher Boyd), and Matthew (Laina); grandchildren, Eamon (Abigail), Kaylen, Andrea, and Liam Schwartz, Aedan Aquiline, Lune Aquiline and Rowan Boyd, and Michael, Mason, and Hiatt Aquiline; great-grandchildren, Cohen, Bodhi, and Stella Schwartz; siblings, Brenda Stokes, Jack O’Shea, and Joan Pupik; sisters-in-law, Til DiTommaso and Hilda Luffey; many nieces and nephews; and many cousins in the U.S. and Ireland.
A Mass in memory of Eileen will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 4, 2023, at St. Therese Church, 1 Saint Therese Ct., Munhall, PA 15120.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her name to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh or Shriners Children’s.
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