For Lynn Chirico, 94
Lynn loved a good story, a dark mystery or a funny tale, and it was her passion to tell it. It started with her love of travel and family history. “Life is action and passion”, she wrote and what a life it was! She traveled the world extensively, well into her 80’s. Loved and admired by so many people she met along her journey, which has now come to an end. We will miss her stories and her spirit for living a good life.
Lynn departed this world peacefully with her loving husband by her side on July 20, 2021, at Manchester Memorial Hospital after a brief illness and complications resulting from a fall. Called Evelyn or Lynn by those who knew her. She was born Florentina Evelyn Reynolds Dec. 6, 1926, in Irvington, NJ. Her father, James Thomas Reynolds, was a building contractor and bank president and her mother, Florentina Evelyn Nagel, had been a school teacher.
The tumultuous times in the last century shaped and transformed Lynn into the woman, mother, the friend and writer who was loved and is now grieved. She saw the Great Depression through a child’s eyes growing up in NJ and lived through WWII as a teenager. She graduated Syracuse University (a sorority beauty queen!) where she met and later married John O’Connor. John later went on to became a successful businessman and mayor of Westfield in 1960. As First Lady, Lynn enjoyed access and experiences that would give her a new political awareness during the Kennedy years. At that time Lynn traveled to Washington with local women to speak with their reps and demand passage of Civil Rights laws during the MLK marches. She believed in civic service involvement. One that she was especially proud of was being on the executive board of the Westfield Tri- Centennial 1669-1969 Association and edited the Commemorative Industrial and Business History Book. In 1970 Lynn would undergo another transformation by breaking with all the traditions that held women back in those days. She declared her liberation and announced that she would be leaving town and moving to the Costa del Sol, Spain! Any family who wished to join her, were welcome to come along.
Spain was a totally new challenge for the family and Lynn took charge, as John was in Westfield working and visiting monthly. The sometimes hilarious misadventures of this transplanted family are all described in “This Book Is Not About Spain,” which she self-published forty years later. Lynn bought a centuries- old house in the Old Town of Marbella, opened a restaurant, rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, and learned enough Spanish to eventually research and write a dissertation on Spanish censorship of the press under the dictator General Franco. Lynn was a very welcoming person generally. While in Spain she hosted a constant stream of visitors and friends. She just wanted to hear their stories of what they had been doing. Collecting research. During this time John and Lynn separated and pursued an amicable divorce.
On one of her summer trips back to the States in the late 70’s, her dear friend, Addie Wheeler, who had lived with Lynn in Spain, introduced her to a man who would become her next husband, Roland Chirico, a professor at Manchester CC. He soon followed her to Spain for a sabbatical year and the two traveled the country together as she conducted interviews and research for their eventual doctoral theses. They became a popular couple at the jazz clubs where Roland played with the band and Lynn did her social research over martinis. Marbella adored them and they loved Marbella back. It was during this time when Lynn’s passion for writing began to bloom. Lynn began writing stories for a Marbella magazine aimed at the English speaking residents. In 1983 she finally sold the big old house, left Spain, and moved to South Windsor to begin the next stage of her life.
Lynn began to explore her love for scholarly interests. At the age of 60, she enrolled at UConn to pursue a Master’s and a Ph.D. in History, which was awarded in 1993. She and Roland still traveled widely, but Mexico particularly interested Lynn because her son was living there with his wife and two children. Together they took trips to archeological sites of the ancient Maya, Aztec, Olmec, and Mixtec cultures. Exploring the colonial cities and modern Mexico, world class museums, bustling markets, rural towns where the people still spoke the indigenous languages -she loved it all. Lynn learned long ago that to travel well, one has to be flexible and expect the unexpected. Embracing a spirit of adventure, she continued her travels to places of cultural and historical interest, often with her children or groups like Elder Hostel around the US. She and Roland visited China, friends across Europe, and simply too many places to mention!
With her background in history, Lynn became the family genealogist researching and documenting her own lineages (Reynolds-Nagel) and that of her children (O’Connor-Dunn) with archival visits, family records, and trips to Ireland and Germany to trace the roots. Family history was something she valued highly and is apparent throughout her writings. Lynn belonged to a group of local writers, whom she held on high esteem. They (David Garnes, Christine Andersen, Marsha Howland, Sarah Karstaedt, Nancy Walker) encouraged each other to write with passion and clarity. She wrote many short stories of people and places that she knew, as well as playful rhymes or poems for special occasions. Her last book was
finished and printed in June, 2019, titled “If Houses Could Talk: The Stories They’d Tell”. Lynn felt that if she put her mind to it, she could learn almost anything. She picked up painting in her 70’s and did a series of portraits of family members. She briefly took up the saxophone in order to play Auld Lang Syne at the Unitarian New Year’s Celebration and she pulled it off with aplomb. Lynn was a life-long gamer where hardly a day could go by without a Scrabble or Upwards match. She generally won even after her eyesight failed her. She always loved to read books. For many years she was a reader for recorded audio Books for the Blind at the state library. Unfortunately she would go blind from Macular Degeneration herself and discover that she now could benefit from the services to which she had contributed so much. Lynn volunteered to tutor foreign students at the local college in English. She enjoyed learning about their cultures and lives. She kept in touch with many of them over the years, especially Seung-Jin and Masako.
A woman of uncommon grace and acceptance until the end. Her curious mind with its love of learning, reading, and storytelling sustained her. She had a positive outlook on life and wanted to share it with the most important people to her -family and friends. We saw in Lynn a soft-spoken, elegance and manner that could perhaps belong to a ‘lady’ from another era, but also a spirited, intelligent, liberated woman with a deep enthusiasm to experience what life has to offer.
Lynn was predeceased by her parents, by her son Thomas O’Connor of Long Island, NY, and by her only sister Elinor (Reynolds) Merel of Northfield, NJ.
She is survived by her husband, Roland Chirico, of South Windsor, CT, and by her children Christine (and Dawson) Church, of Petaluma, CA, Gary O’Connor (and Sylvia Galván) of Southampton, MA, Pohar O’Connor of San Mateo, CA, John David O’Connor of Plymouth, MA, and daughter-in-law Debbie Cotton of Copiague NY. Her grandchildren Jessie, Julia, Devin, Emily, Erick, Edgar, and Eric. Her great grandchildren Natalie, Keira, William, and Maya Rose. She will be sorely missed by her nieces and nephew Lori, Janet, Jim, Mary Ann, Kathy, and Nancy. Her step-children Bruce Chirico of Glastonbury, CT, Marisa Chirico of South Windsor, CT, Roland (and Judy) Chirico of Stafford Springs, CT, and Leslie Wagenheim of Ooltewah, TN. Also her long-time friend Helen (Figliar) Lucking from her sorority days at Syracuse University, and friends Myrna Butler, Westfield,
MA and Bunny Buick, Longmeadow, MA. And her faithful companion, Kitty (Sugar Plum), who yet sleeps on her bed.
Lynn enjoyed a deep sense of community with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Manchester and we are all grateful for the love and support they gave to her, particularly in her final months. Special thanks to Marisa Chirico for her love and kindness towards Lynn during her last months.
In the early morning of Tuesday July 20th, our remarkable mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, wife, and friend left peacefully on a new journey where she may encounter new adventures and passions. We miss her like there is no tomorrow. A Memorial Celebration will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Society, Manchester, CT, to be announced at a future date.
To honor Lynn, in lieu of flowers, people can make a donation to: Connecticut Volunteer Services For The Blind And Handicapped, Inc., check payable to: CVSBH, Inc., mail to: CVSBH, Inc., Oliver Wolcott Library, P.O. Box 363, 160 South Street, Litchfield, CT 06759