Mary O’Donnell Sweeney, 82, matriarch who celebrated her Irish heritage

Mary O’Donnell Sweeney

Mary O’Donnell Sweeney, 82, passed away unexpectedly Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, at her home.

Mary was preceded in death by her husband and the love of her life, Jim Sweeney. Born Oct. 21, 1937, in Columbia, South Carolina, she was the daughter of the late John Carroll O’Donnell and Lillian Gaffney O’Donnell.

Mary attended Dreyer High School in Columbia, South Carolina, and later went on to attend Ursuline College in Louisville, Kentucky. After college, she returned to Columbia and began her career as an administrative assistant in the banking industry.

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1957, Mary attended a Knights of Columbus Dance and her life changed forever. A handsome U.S. Army sergeant named Jim Sweeney noticed her red hair from across the room and asked her to dance. He knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, and told her he would marry her during that first dance. Their Irish heritage was very important to them and meeting on St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be fate. Eighteen months later, they married and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1962, they moved to Virginia Beach, where they lived together for the next 55 years.

Mary’s life was filled with love for her husband, children, grandchildren and great-granddaughter. Known to everyone as “Meemster,” she was the center and heart of her family and will be immeasurably missed, but in our hearts forever.

Left to cherish her memory are her daughters, Karen Sweeney Inman (Mike) and Susan Sweeney, both of Virginia Beach; grandchildren, Kate Wagner (fiancé, Felix Swierski) of Washington, D.C., Korey Hogan (Randy) of Danville and Spencer and Jack Lambert, both of Virginia Beach; great-granddaughter, Sierra Hogan, of Danville; sister, Colleen Gist of Columbia, South Carolina; nieces, Tammy Kelly of Portland, Oregon, and Lynn Lewis of Columbia, South Carolina; and sister-in-law, the Honorable Margaret Sweeney of Alexandria.

A Mass in celebration of Mary’s life will be held at 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, at Church of the Holy Family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Ocean Park Volunteer Rescue Squad, P.O. Box 5545, Virginia Beach, VA 23471.

Share online condolences with the family at H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts.

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