Elizabeth Gael O’Reilly was born to Elizabeth and Frank O’Reilly in Vancouver, British Columbia and moved with her family to Seattle when she was nine years old. There, Gael and her sister Sharon attended Sacred Heart School and Holy Names Academy. Gael graduated in 1957 and maintained life-long relationships with several of her classmates.
Gael married in 1959 and had four children in six years. She sent them to Blessed Sacrament School and was very active in the parish. Gael raised her children to think for themselves and to value one another. A feminist, Gael was a strong advocate for peace and justice.
After her divorce, Gael secured employment at a Seattle credit union and advanced to loan officer, lending manager, and manager of two banks. She retired in 2004.
For many years Gael was active with the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center (IPJC) and the Edmonds Dominicans, who founded the Center. She hosted a book club and Soup Group and was famous for her sense of humor, hospitality, and over-the-top Christmas decorations and kindness. She was an active person in every way until she began to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, which she lived with for almost five years.
Sister Ann Marie Wood, OP, shared the following:
Gael and I met half a century ago. We were both young mothers and active members of Blessed Sacrament, the Dominican parish in North Seattle at a time when the Dominicans embraced the Vatican II changes with openness and creativity. It was an incredible, hope-filled time as our faith community celebrated a renewed church.
While an Edmonds Dominican I became involved with the Associate Program and was delighted when Gael expressed an interest. She participated in many activities at Rosary Heights, our Motherhouse, and, after the Edmonds/Adrian merger joined the Siena Mission Group, the same one I belong to. Gael served as RAL [Representative of Associate Life] until her declining health forced her to resign. Gael was a Dominican through and through!
Gael is survived by her four children: Mark (Lara) Simmons, Eric (Katie) Simmons, Carrie Simmons, and Pat Simmons; her beloved grandchildren, Audrey, Andrew, Daniel, Owen, Jack, and Ava; and her dear sister, Sharon.
When the Edmonds Dominican Sisters merged with Adrian Dominican Sisters, Gael wrote that she looked forward to meeting new people. “I bring a questioning mind, a sense of humor, compassion and tolerance, a wish to be mentally and spiritually expanded (not physically expanded, however), and a humble and inquiring mind.”
Gael’s children wrote in a memorial booklet for their mother: “Mom made sure that we could do and be whatever we wanted. As a single parent of four, she worked very hard to give us the best life she could. She was a lifelong advocate for peace and justice and fought for the poor in Washington State with the Adrian Dominican Sisters. She was a great listener and friend and always offered wise advice.”
Her children concluded their memories by saying, “Mom, we will miss you every day and will be seeing you in the butterflies and little birdies in the trees. And yes, we will remember to vote and to get our flu shots.”
Gael’s funeral, held June 25, 2018 at Sacred Heart Parish, celebrated her family, her interests and her spirituality. She will be missed.
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