Nature 18

Maureen C. O'Donnell

September 7, 1943 ~ July 31, 2022 (age 78)


Maureen C. O’Donnell, 78, of Upton, Mass., peacefully passed away on July 31, 2022, after an extended illness. 

Born in Waltham, Mass., on Sept. 7, 1943, Maureen was the daughter of Robert and Catherine (Romard) O’Donnell, who preceded her in death.  The family moved to Claremont, N.H., in 1945, and Maureen graduated from Stevens High School in 1961.  She attended Emmanual College in Boston, graduating in 1965, and earned a master’s degree in deaf education from Columbia University in 1967.  She later attended Boston College earning a Master of Social Work.

Maureen held dual citizenship in the U.S. and Ireland.  She was extremely proud of her Irish heritage and for nearly two decades spent summers in Ireland, often attending literary seminars on William Butler Yeats.

 In 1967, Maureen began a 45-year career in deaf education.  Her first teaching job was at the Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield, N.H.  In 1970, she and two colleagues founded The Learning Center for the Deaf (TLC) in Framingham, Mass., where Maureen spent the remainder of her career. 

TLC was the first school for the Deaf in Massachusetts to employ “total communication,” which includes sign language, finger spelling, speech, and lip reading.  Its establishment was a milestone in the state’s 150-year history of deaf education.  Before TLC, deaf children who did not or could not learn orally (using speech and lip reading) had to seek education at facilities in nearby states.  After obtaining her MSW degree, Maureen served as the school’s senior clinical social worker and its primary psychotherapist, helping students with problems complicated by communication difficulties.  Her passion and devotion to optimizing the education and well being of TLC students was admired by all who knew her. 

Maureen is survived by her husband of 37 years James Lilley of Upton, Mass., three siblings—Terry O’Donnell of Spokane, Wash.; Margaret O’Donnell of Keene, N.H.; and Cathy (O’Donnell) Fomous—as well as brother-in-law John Fomous of Arlington, Va., many cousins, and a cadre of life-long friends. 

Maureen was a voracious reader.  Instead of a memorial service, she preferred that those who wish to remember her read a book for an hour and consider making a contribution to a library or literacy organization (such as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library). 


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