Cover photo for Marie F. O'Donnell's Obituary
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Marie F. O'Donnell

January 28, 1927 — February 22, 2024

East Walpole

Marie F. O'Donnell

Marie F. (Wright) O'Donnell, age 97, peacefully passed from this life on Thursday, February 22, 2024, at the Maples Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Wrentham, Massachusetts, lovingly surrounded by her family and friends who had held vigil for many days. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts on January 28, 1927, she was the youngest daughter of the late George W. and Grace E. (Cummings) Wright. Marie was raised in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Brookline, where she met her neighbor and best friend Dorothy "Dolly" Rozon. The pair were inseparable from a young age, developing a sisterly bond, and becoming best friends for life. After graduating from Brookline High School with the class of 1946, Marie went to work as a civilian at the Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Massachusetts, commuting daily from Brookline with Dolly and their friend Bill Kearns. Marie performed clerical duties, folding territorial maps to be sent overseas, and taking shorthand dictations for the Colonel she reported to. 

Soon thereafter Dolly and Bill, a couple themselves, decided to play match maker, introducing Marie to Joseph O'Donnell, a close friend of Bill's. Marie found Joe delightful to be around and enjoyed building a friendship with him, often getting together with Dolly and Bill for afternoons out. Their friendship slowly blossomed into a romance, and on October 29, 1950, Marie married the love of her life, Joseph Michael O'Donnell, at his alma mater, Boston College in Chestnut Hill. The pair initially made their married home in an apartment in Brookline, with Joe taking a job in sales and Marie using the skills she learned working at Hanscom Air Force Base to become a secretary. 

After several years, and with help from Marie's brothers, the couple began building a home on Pilgrim Way in East Walpole, Massachusetts, moving in in July of 1955. The charming ranch was situated in the middle of the street and boasted a rare luxury at the time- an in-ground swimming pool. In 1963, Marie and Joe's family grew with the birth of their daughter Susan, and again in 1965 with the birth of their son David. 

After welcoming their children, Marie took on the role of homemaker, caring for her children and keeping her home organized.  Marie's home was quite a busy home, as she loved to host friends and family, with various Wrights and O’Donnells visiting especially in the summer when her pool was open. Marie's pool parties were legendary, often with the whole neighborhood turning up for a dip in the deep end. She welcomed everyone with open arms, providing a gathering space for her community, and never turning anyone away as "the host of Pilgrim Way". Her friends would often join her to relax by the pool, enjoying each other’s company, while their children played games and swam the day away until their fingers were wrinkled like raisins. 

Fully embracing her new East Walpole community, Marie and her family joined Saint Mary's Church in East Walpole, where she would encourage her children to grow in their faith by attending Mass every Sunday. Marie and Joe were very active in the church, helping at the Christmas Bazaar, sharing food and faith at Italian Night, and enjoying all the social events that the church offered. 

While Marie loved East Walpole, she also held her hometown dear to her heart, often packing up the kids and some lunches and heading to Chestnut Hill for the day. She loved to show her children where she grew up, exploring favorite restaurants and shops, and taking tours of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum. Marie enjoyed traveling in general, whether it was a short car ride, a day trip to an unknown destination, or a grand adventure in a far-off place. Luckily for Marie, Joe was often rewarded for excelling at his work with destination vacations. The pair traveled the world, visiting many countries in South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa over the years as a result.

In the late 1970's, with her children growing older, Marie returned to the workforce, taking a secretarial position at Hollingsworth and Vose in East Walpole. By this time, Marie had made many close connections in her community, including meeting daily with a number of friends for coffee and pastries. When she was offered the position at Hollingsworth and Vose, she accepted under the condition that her start time was not until after 9:15 AM, as this daily ritual was so important to her. Hollingsworth and Vose accepted this condition, and Marie remained a dedicated employee to the company until her retirement in 1999.

Starting 1989, Marie was promoted from Mother to Grandmother, taking on the title of "Grammree". She was thrilled to become a grandmother, and enthusiastically accepted all that being a grandmother entailed. You could count on Grammree to be there to applaud you at your dance recitals, cheer you on at your baseball games, or take you for a tasty treat after school. She was fiercely proud of them and would happily share their accomplishments with anyone who would listen, always reminding them of how marvelous they are. Marie was a gentle grandmother, never one to raise her voice, and could be relied upon to listen without judgment, creating a welcoming space anytime someone in her life needed her. She was also a fun grandmother, hosting sleepovers at her house for her grandchildren and their friends, staying up late and challenging the kids to games of Ping Pong, which she inevitably won. Many visits with Grammree ended with a tightly folded dollar bill discreetly pressed into your hand, a little secret shared between grandmother and grandchild.

Family was the most important aspect of Marie's life. Her love extended beyond just her immediate family, being a loving sister, aunt, and great aunt as well. She often showed this love with a handmade gift, using her knitting needles to fashion an afghan, a blanket, or a scarf that the recipients would cherish and wear with pride. One thing that family looked forward to every year was Christmas Eve on Pilgrim Way. Marie would gather all of her Wright family, multiple generations, to share the love and joy of the holiday season.  Marie would mail out invitations every year, with the delighted recipients quickly RSVPing "Yes we'll be there!". Even during the pandemic, Marie wanted to show her family how important they were to her and how much she loved them, and while she could not host her regular Christmas Eve gathering, she still invited people to drive by to share in the Christmas cheer.

In her later years, Marie was active at the Walpole Council on Aging, attending yoga classes and meeting with the knitting club every week. After the passing of her husband, Marie took comfort with a widow's group based out of Norwood, finding solace with others in her position. In her free time, Marie enjoyed watching the birds and rabbits in her yard, often feeding them a carrot or pizza crusts. She loved all animals, with the exception of chipmunks, and liked to dog sit for her children, taking their dogs out on errands for the day just for fun. Marie was a very consistent woman, and regardless of what she was planning on doing that day, she inevitably would end up visiting her daughter Sue's house every day, spending time with her and if Sue wasn't home, taking it upon herself to help by doing little chores like folding laundry, showing her love in small ways. Marie also regularly met with friends to play Rummikub, rotating hosting the games week to week. She loved to play games of all sorts and was incredibly competitive, never letting someone win just because. Her basement on Pilgrim Way held a Ping Pong table and Marie took every opportunity she had to challenge her family and friends to tournaments, showing her opponents no mercy, and winning games well into her nineties. Marie also enjoyed traveling throughout her life, not just on trips awarded through Joe’s work, but also with friends and family. She took a once in a lifetime trip to Cuba before the embargoes, she traveled to Germany, Sweden, and more, creating memories that she loved to share when having friends and family over for gatherings.

Throughout Marie's life, she was known as a quintessential host, welcoming people into her home and her heart with grace and humility. Never the one to want to be the center of attention, she had a subtle elegance and enjoyed lifting others up. She will be remembered for her thoughtfulness, her devotion to her family and friends, her faith and spirituality, her easy-going manner, and her ability to remain positive even in the darkest of times.  

Beloved wife of the late Joseph Michael O'Donnell

Loving mother of Susan M. Smith, and her husband David, of Walpole, and David J. O'Donnell, and his wife Caroline, of Milton.

Cherished grandmother of Bryan J. Smith of Taunton, Kevin K. Smith of Los Angeles, California, Madelyn A. Smith of Medford, and Graham J. O'Donnell of Milton

Sister of the late George F. Wright, Robert A. Wright, Donald W. Wright, John Wright, Frederick Wright, and Eileen F. Cardarett.

Survived by her dear friend Judy Langmead of Walpole, as well as many loving nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews.

Marie is predeceased by many of her close friends, including her best friend Dorothy "Dolly" (Ruzon) Kearns, and her husband Bill Kearns. Marie was one of the last of her generation of friends, having been so busy taking care of them that she did not have time to slow down and rest herself. For 54 years, Marie and her friends met every day, checking in with each other, supporting each other, celebrating each other, all over a shared cup of coffee and pastries. 

Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend Marie's Life Celebration on Sunday, March 3rd, 2024, from 2:00 - 5:00 pm in the James H. Delaney & Son Funeral Home, 48 Common Street, Walpole.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday, March 4th, 2024, in Saint Mary's Church, 176 Washington Street in East Walpole, at 10:00 AM.  Interment will take place at Saint Francis Cemetery in Walpole.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Marie's name may be made to Mass Audubon Society at 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773 or by visiting

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Marie F. O'Donnell, please visit our flower store.

Past Services


Sunday, March 3, 2024

2:00 - 5:00 pm (Eastern time)

James H. Delaney & Son Funeral Home

48 Common St, Walpole, MA 02081

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Mass of Christian Burial

Monday, March 4, 2024

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

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