Eileen O’Donnell Buckley
Beloved Wife, Mother and Nana
June 12, 1940 – June 2, 2023
Eileen (O’Donnell) Buckley, 82, of Chatham, NJ, passed away peacefully on June 2, 2023. Eileen was the fifth of six children born to Margaret (Gildae) and Hugh O’Donnell in the northwest countryside of Ireland, on a farm by the sea in Gortnasillagh, County Donegal.
Eileen was married to Neil (Cornelius) for 58 years until his recent passing (April 24, 2023), living the past 51 of those years in Chatham, where they raised their four daughters. She is now joyfully reunited with Neil, their eldest daughter, Mary; as well as two of her sisters, Bridget (Monahan) and Kathleen, and her grandpup, Puggy.
Eileen is survived by three siblings, Mary (McDyer) in Florida, and John and Noel in Ireland; her three daughters, Cathleen Buckley Aufiero (Tony), Anne Buckley Feldman (Mike) and Noreen Wolfe (Joe), and her three grandchildren, Evan, Ryan and Lucy.
Eileen was an excellent student scoring “First in Ireland” in Business Arithmetic when she was 16. This resulted in securing a “cream of the crop” job with the federal Civil Service of Ireland, bringing her to Dublin where she lived for the next several years. At age 23, Eileen joined her sisters in the United States, arriving in Jersey City, NJ, in 1963. She began a career as a legal secretary with her first job on John Street in NYC’s Financial District. After taking a break to raise her 4 daughters, Eileen continued her career for 30+ years, working in several NJ law firms.
Eileen met her husband, Neil, also from Ireland (Cork City), while out dancing with her girlfriends at McGovern’s bar in Newark, NJ. As Neil tells the story, he asked Eileen to dance that first night and was instantly charmed.
Eileen was an active parishioner at St. Patrick’s Church in Chatham for 51 years and participated in many parish activities and charitable projects. She was passionate about giving back and was a regular donor to many worthwhile causes, primarily focused on feeding and providing for those in need. Eileen and Neil regularly volunteered at St. John’s Soup Kitchen in Newark, NJ, recruiting their children and friends as well. Eileen’s car was always filled with various items to be donated at the next event.
Eileen’s love of nature was spiritual – she was moved and inspired by trees, birds, flowers, shades of light, the moon. Her favorite place was Loantaka Park in Morristown, NJ. She loved being there in every season and constantly commented on its beauty as if each repeat visit was her first. Until recently, she and Neil visited daily, with Neil trying to keep up with her and Eileen stopping to visit with every dog along the way. She was a natural with animals and was nicknamed the dog-whisperer for her ability to connect with dogs of all temperaments.
Eileen maintained a child-like curiosity throughout her adult life, and mastered a long string of crafts, hobbies and skills – gardening, knitting, crocheting, pinecone wreath-making, wallpapering, ceramics, painting. She even earned a reflexology certificate in her early 70’s – a lovely side benefit for her loved ones. Eileen was gifted at baking bread and was famous for her Irish soda bread. Anyone sick, grieving or suffering got a hand-baked and hand-delivered Irish soda bread.
She devoured books and loved her crosswords. She taught Gaelic and English (ESL – English as a second language) for many years. It is tragic irony that Eileen suffered with aphasia for the last several years of her life, causing her to lose the ability to do so many things that she loved.
Eileen was lovingly cared for and doted on the last years by Neil until he passed in April. Together, Eileen and Neil provided a life for their family that they could have only dreamed of growing up in Ireland. Their children are incredibly grateful for their parents’ spirit and sense of adventure making their fortunate lives possible.