Margaret Mary (O'Shaughnessy) Heckler
June 21, 1931 – August 6, 2018
MOM’S EULOGY 8/25/18
By John Heckler Jr.
MY SISTERS BELINDA AND ALISON AND I WANT TO THANK ALL OF YOU FOR COMING TODAY TO CELEBRATE MOM’S INCREDIBLE LIFE.
IT IS SO GOOD TO SEE SO MANY FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS ALL GATHERED TOGETHER IN SUCH A BEAUTIFUL AND HOLY SETTING. THIS IS DEFINITELY THE PLACE WHERE MOM WOULD WANT US ALL TO BE.
TO KNOW MARGARET HECKLER WAS ALSO TO KNOW THAT SHE WAS A TRUE BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST AND THAT SHE WAS A CATHOLIC.
ONCE MOM FINISHED HER WORK SERVING THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES IN HER POLITICAL ROLES AND RETURNED FROM“THE OLD COUNTRY” -HER BELOVED IRELAND- SHE HAD A NEW CALLING AND THAT WAS ONE OF BEING A DISCIPLE.
SHE WOULD ASK EVERYONE IF THEY WENT TO CHURCH- FOLLOWED UP BY “ARE YOU CATHOLIC?” IF THEY ANSWERED “NO” TO GOING TO CHURCH OR THEIR PLACE OF WORSHIP SHE WOULD RAMP UP THE CONVERSATION AND EVANGELIZE. WHETHER YOU WERE A CAB DRIVER OR A SENATOR, A SECURITY GUARD OR A CEO; IT DID NOT MATTER TO MOM. ALL SHE CARED ABOUT WAS THAT THEY THINK ABOUT GOD AND HOPEFULLY INVITE HIM INTO THEIR LIVES.
SHE WOULD SHOW UP AT THE HOUSE AT OUR WEEKLY SUNDAY NIGHT DINNERS AND SAY SHE JUST FINISHED TALKING TO HER CAB DRIVER, AND NOW HE IS GOING TO START GOING BACK TO CHURCH. SHE WOULD BE SO FIRED UP ABOUT IT. THAT DRIVE WAS ONLY FIVE MINUTES TO OUR HOUSE, BUT THE POOR UBER DRIVER THAT WAS DRIVING HER THE 1 ½ HOURS TO OUR HOUSE ON THE BAY, THAT GUY REALLY GOT AN EAR FULL. WHEN THE DRIVERS REACHED ST. MICHAEL’S AND DROPPED MOM OFF, THEY ALWAYS WOULD SAY HOW THEY APPRECIATED THE TALK WITH HER AND I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THEY HAD THEIR COMPASSES RECALIBRATED TO POINT STRAIGHT NORTH.
MOST PEOPLE KNOW MARGARET HECKLER FROM ONE OF HER POLITICAL ROLES AS A CARING, LOVING, DETERMINED AND TENACIOUS DEFENDER AND ADVOCATE OF HER CONSTITUENTS, THE PRESIDENTS SHE SERVED, AS WELL AS THE CITIZENS OF OUR GREAT UNITED STATES. HER ACHIEVEMENTS WERE MANY- TOO MANY TO COVER NOW- SO I WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO YOU TODAY AS I SAW HER THROUGH MY EYES BEING HER FAVORITE SON AND YES, HER ONLY SON, WHICH GAVE ME SOME SPECIAL INSIGHTS.
FROM AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER MY MOM HAS BEEN MY HERO. YOU CAN ONLY IMAGINE THE LIFE OF THE SON OF SUCH A WOMAN VIEWING THE WORLD FROM THE BACK OF ON OLDSMOBILE CONVERTIBLE ON THE 4TH OF JULY, HEADING DOWN MAINSTREET IN WELLESLEY, NATICK, FRAMINGHAM, FALL RIVER OR ONE OF THE MANY OTHER TOWNS IN HER DISTRICT.
RUNNING THROUGH THE HALLS OF THE RAYBURN BUILDING OR THE CAPITOL BUILDING AND PLAYING CHICKEN IN OUR POOL IN MCLEAN ON THE SHOULDERS OF TIP O’NEIL. MEETING PRESIDENTS AS FAR BACK AS JOHNSON, ESCORTING MOM TO BALLS, AND GALAS, AND RUBBING ELBOWS WITH PRO ATHLETES , HOLLYWOOD FOLKS, AND CEO’S. IT JUST SEEMED LIKE WE ALWAYS HAD GROWNUPS AROUND THE HOUSE , WITH STAFF, ADVISORS, VOLUNTEERS, AND DONORS ALWAYS COMING AND GOING IN AND OUT OF OUR LIVES.
THIS WAS ACTUALLY A WORLD THAT MY SISTERS AND I NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED AND YET IT WAS WHAT WE CAME TO KNOW - BEING MARGARET HECKLER’S CHILDREN.
BUT WHAT WAS MY REAL VIEW OF MOM -THE REAL LIFE OF A TRUE AMERICAN HERO? I HONESTLY BELIEVED AS A KID THAT MY MOM WAS CAPABLE OF LEAPING TALL BUILDINGS AND STOPPING LOCOMOTIVES – AND OH - SHE WAS DEFINITELY FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET. FIGHTING FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE AND THOSE WITH PROBLEMS AND IN NEED AND WORKING TO DO THE UNTHINKABLE TO BETTER MANKIND. YUP, THAT WAS MOM, MY HERO. AN AMERICAN HERO FOR SURE. EVEN AT ONLY 5’1 1/4 INCHES - SHE ALWAYS WANTED TO INCLUDE THE ¼” - SHE ACCOMPLISHED THE UNTHINKABLE.
MY SISTERS AND I ALWAYS JOKED THAT MOM WAS LIKE A WHIRLWIND WHEREVER SHE WENT SHE WAS ALWAYS GETTING FOLKS MOVING, CONNECTING, AND TALKING. WHEN SHE WALKED INTO A ROOM IT WAS ALMOST LIKE THE LIGHTS WERE ALL OF A SUDDEN TURNED ON BRIGHTER. AND YES MOM WAS A PARTY GIRL. NEVER MISSING AN EVENT OR PARTY AND SOMETIMES GOING TO THREE OR FOUR A NIGHT. MAKING THE ROUNDS IN DC AND SHE LOVED IT.
MOM’S ABILITY TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE AND TO RECOGNIZE INEQUALITIES, THAT WERE JUST FRANKLY UNFAIR, WAS A GOD GIVEN GIFT AND WE ALL BENEFITED FROM IT BECAUSE GOD ALSO PUT HER IN A POSITION TO MAKE CHANGE, AND CHANGE SHE DID -IN SO MANY GREAT WAYS.
WHETHER IT WAS WORKING ON WOMENS’ EQUALITY TO GET A LOAN, THROUGH THE EQUAL CREDIT ACT, OR WORKING TO RATIFY THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT OR TITLE 9 - SHE WORKED TIRELESSLY TO HELP GIVE WOMAN OPPORTUNITIES THAT THEY NEVER HAD BEFORE. DOING THE HARD WORK OF BREAKING THE THICK ICE SO OTHERS COULD FOLLOW AND REACH THEIR POTENTIAL .
I WAS PLAYING FOOTBALL AT THE TIME WHEN TITLE 9 CAME ALONG. MOM WAS A SPONSOR OF THE BILL AND SHE WAS ASKED BY AN OPPOSING CONGRESSMAN WHY SHE WAS PUSHING TITLE 9 SO HARD IF SHE HAD A SON WHO WAS PLAYING FOOTBALL? AND SHE SAID, “BECAUSE I HAVE 2 DAUGHTERS AS WELL.” MOM WAS ALWAYS LOOKING AT BOTH SIDES AND MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION TO MOVE FORWARD FAIRLY AND TO OPEN DOORS FOR OTHERS TO SUCCEED.
SHE WAS A MAJOR ADVOCATE FOR OUR VETERANS WHO SHE CHAMPIONED TO DELIVER MUCH NEEDED AND DESERVED BENEFITS - SAYING THAT SHE WAS DRIVEN “TO GIVE BACK TO THOSE THAT GAVE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE FOR OUR COUNTRY”. HER FATHER WAS A NAVY VETERAN FROM WWI, WHICH INFLUENCED HER AS WELL, I KNOW.
SHE WORKED FOR MORE HOSPITALS AND CEMETERIES TO HONOR OUR INJURED AND FALLEN. SHE FOUGHT LONG AND HARD TO RESTORE THE BENEFITS OF THE WASP WOMEN PILOTS OF WWII WHO LOST THEIR BENEFITS AS VETERANS BECAUSE OF BUDGET CUTS. AGAIN BEING A HERO TO THOSE WHO WERE MISTREATED AND UNDER-SERVED.
AT HHS, MOM WAS LOOKING AGAIN FOR THE AREAS THAT NEEDED THE MOST WORK, AREAS ALSO THAT MOST PEOPLE DID NOT WANT TO BE INVOLVED IN, INCLUDING THE PROBLEM OF AIDS. SHE RECOGNIZED EARLY ON, THE NEED TO KEEP OUR BLOOD BANK SAFE FROM THIS TERRIBLE DISEASE, WORKING TO FIND A REMEDY TO HELP FIGHT IT. SHE VISITED AIDS PATIENTS IN THE HOSPITAL AND SHOOK THEIR HANDS, SOMETHING OTHERS WERE TOO SCARED TO DO. SHE PROVIDED HOPE FOR THEM, WHERE THERE HAD BEEN NONE.
IN HER NEW ROLE AS SECRETARY OF HHS SHE DISCOVERED THE DISPARITIES BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK MALES’ LIFE EXPECTANCIES . THERE WAS AN ASTONISHING DIFFERENCE IN THE YEARS APART - AND SO SHE WORKED TO GET THE FUNDING FOR WHAT BECAME THE HECKLER REPORT. THIS REPORT WAS SO GROUNDBREAKING THAT IT BLOSSOMED INTO WHAT IS TODAY THE DEPARTMENT OF MINORITY HEALTH, A MULTI MILLION DOLLAR DEPARTMENT OF HHS. THE REPORT WAS FAR REACHING. IT LOOKED AT ALL MINORITY RACES TO UNDERSTAND AND FIND SOLUTIONS TO THE MANY HEALTH DISPARITIES BETWEEN THEM AND CAUCASIANS.
SHE WAS ALSO SUCCEEDED IN HAVING HOSPICE INCLUDED IN MEDICARE SO THAT AMERICANS COULD DIE WITH DIGNITY REGARDLESS OF THEIR INCOME. AGAIN, MY MOM WAS AN AMERICAN HERO TOUCHING THE LIVES OF MILLIONS – AND TOUCHING EACH ONE OF US IN PROFOUND WAYS... FIGHTING THE TOUGH FIGHTS AGAINST ALL ODDS. WHEN BUDGET CUTS WERE REQUIRED, SHE FOUND FUNDING. WHEN THERE WERE THOSE IN NEED, SHE STEPPED UP AND DID HER DARNDEST TO MAKE A CHANGE – NOT FAVORING ANY GROUP OR PARTY, BUT FIGHTING FOR ALL AMERICANS. MY AMERICAN HERO - BIGGER THAN LIFE, MY MOM.
ALL THE WHILE SHE MAINTAINED OUR FAMILY AND MADE MY SISTERS AND MYSELF PRIORITIES. WE KNEW IF WE NEEDED TO TALK TO MOM, HER STAFF WOULD PUT US STRAIGHT THROUGH TO HER. THE STAFF MOM HAD WAS AMAZING. FROM CONGRESS TO HHS, ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE POND TO DUBLIN. MY SISTERS AND I CAME TO LOVE ALL OF HER STAFF, AND WE THANK THEM FOR THEIR COMMITMENT TO MOM AND FOR THEM BEING A PART OF HER WONDERFUL LEGACY.
MOM WOULD HAVE SOMEONE ON HER STAFF CALL US AT HOME IF NECESSARY AND SAY SHE IS ON HER WAY, AND TO HOLD DINNER. DINNER WITH THE FAMILY WAS PARAMOUNT TO HER, AND DINNERS AT 9PM WERE NOT UNUSUAL, SINCE OFTEN SHE WOULD BE VOTING LATE ON THE HILL. MOM WOULD ARRIVE IN A WHIRLWIND AND DINNER WOULD BE READY TO GO AND SHE WOULD START TALKING AROUND THE TABLE WITH WHOEVER HAD A PRESSING ITEM LIKE A TEST OR A GAME THAT DAY AND WE WOULD GO AROUND THE TABLE TALKING ABOUT SCHOOL AND KIDS’ STUFF. SHE LOVED IT. EVEN RECENTLY, SHE WOULD ASK THE GRANDKIDS WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES, AND IF THEY NEEDED ANY HELP, AND ALWAYS PROVIDED WISDOM IN THESE CONVERSATIONS.
IN SPITE OF HER BUSY CAREER MOM ALWAYS ARRANGED BIRTHDAY PARTIES FOR US AND SCHEDULED CAMPS AND ATTENDED NOT ALL, BUT A LOT OF OUR GAMES. SHE EVEN GAVE THE COMMENCEMENT SPEECH AT MY HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION AT BULLIS, HANDING ME MY HARD EARNED DIPLOMA.
BEING THE YOUNGEST I WAS THE LAST TO HEAD OFF TO COLLEGE. I REMEMBER GETTING READY TO LEAVE FOR PRESEASON FOOTBALL CAMP LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY. THE FINAL WEEK BEFORE I LEFT, MOM WOULD COME UP TO MY ROOM EVERY NIGHT AND SAY A PRAYER WITH ME AND THEN FALL ASLEEP ON THE BED NEXT TO MINE, NOT WANTING ME TO LEAVE HER BUT ALSO KNOWING THAT I MUST GO. THAT WAS A POINT IN TIME THAT I WILL ALWAYS CHERISH AND THINK OF. YOU SEE, MOM AND I WERE VERY CLOSE AND SINCE I RETURNED FROM COLLEGE, I HAVE NEVER LIVED MORE THAN 3 MILES FROM HER - WHICH WAS SUCH A BLESSING TO KIM, OUR FAMILY AND ME.
OF COURSE, BELINDA, BEING THE OLDEST, GOT TO GO ON ALL THE GREAT TRIPS WITH MOM… LIKE FLYING TO CHINA WITH A CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION WHEN SHE WAS AT MADEIRA. I ALWAYS WONDERED HOW SHE WAS ABLE TO CUT SCHOOL AND GO FOR 2 WEEKS TO CHINA BUT HEY, SHE WAS THE FIRST CHILD AND THAT COMES WITH SOME PRETTY NICE PERKS. SHE ALSO GOT TO HOLD THE FAMILY BIBLE WHEN MOM WAS GETTING SWORN IN WITH PRESIDENT REAGAN AND SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR AND THEN VICE PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH IN THE OVAL OFFICE - QUITE THE HONOR.
ALISON HAD HER TIMES WITH MOM AS WELL. SHE WAS MORE LOCKED ON TO MOM LATER AS SHE SETTLED INTO HER CHRISTIAN FAMILY THERAPIST CAREER. SINCE ALISON IS THE ONE THAT WENT TO NOT 1, BUT 2 SEMINARIES, SHE BECAME MOM’S GO TO PERSON FOR PRAYERS. AND SHE WOULD CALL ALI TO PRAY ABOUT LOST CAR KEYS OR A SPEECH SHE WAS ABOUT TO GIVE. USUALLY IT WAS URGENT, AND ALI WOULD CALM HER DOWN AND THINGS WOULD WORK OUT MOST OF THE TIME AND GOD WOULD ANSWER THEIR PRAYERS. MOM HAD A WONDERFUL AND BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH BOTH ALI AND MICK. SHE LOVED THE SAILS ON THE BAY, THE SOUNDS OF THEIR IRISH MUSIC, AND THANKSGIVINGS IN SALISBURY WITH MICK’S FAMILY.
OF COURSE MY FAVORITE TIME WITH MOM, AND I WOULD GUESS THIS IS TRUE FOR MY SISTERS AS WELL, WAS WHEN SHE TOOK OFF TO IRELAND AS AMBASSADOR. WHAT A CHERRY ASSIGNMENT FOR MOM’S LAST POLITICAL ROLE. THE DAUGHTER OF IRISH IMMIGRANTS -THANK YOU RONALD REAGAN.
MOM, UPON ARRIVING, WANTED TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND LOOKED AT ALL OF THE ISSUES OF THE DAY FOR IRELAND. SHE WANTED TO STEP IN AND HAVE AMERICA HELP. THE WORSE PROBLEM OF THE DAY WAS IRELAND’S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE, WHICH HIT A STAGGERING 17 PERCENT. THERE JUST WERE NO JOBS FOR THE YOUNG IRISH STUDENTS GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE. IRELAND’S ECONOMY WAS STUCK IN THE DARK AGES.
MOM DECIDED THAT SHE COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH THIS MAJOR PROBLEM AND WHAT A DIFFERENCE SHE MADE. WORKING WITH THE IRISH AND AMERICAN CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE, SHE WAS ABLE TO FORGE TIES WITH THE TWO COUNTRIES. SHE BROUGHT OVER MICROSOFT, MEETING WITH BILL GATES. SHE MET WITH THE CEO’S OF PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES, OTHER TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES, AND OF COURSE - WITH MY FAVORITE, A BEER COMPANY: ANHEUSER BUSCH. YES! THESE FOLKS AT BUDWEISER BECAME CLOSE FRIENDS OF OURS. THEY CAME AND SPONSORED THE IRISH DERBY, WHAT A GREAT PARTY. NOW WHEN YOU GO TO IRELAND OR EUROPE, YOU WILL FIND BUDWEISER IN EVERY PUB AND BAR.
BUT WHETHER YOU CALLED HER CONGRESSWOMAN, MADAM SECRETARY OR AMBASSADOR,THERE WAS TRULY ONLY ONE TITLE THAT REALLY MATTERED TO HER AND THAT WAS MOM OR GRANDMA.
WHEN ASKED WHAT HER GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT WAS IN HER LIFE, SHE WOULD ANSWER WITHOUT HESITATION – MY FAMILY, MY THREE CHILDREN AND MY FOUR GRANDCHILDREN.
WHENEVER I SAW MOM OR TALKED TO HER ON THE PHONE, WHICH WAS ALMOST EVERY DAY, IT WAS ALWAYS “WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE KIDS?” HOW IS TRIP LIKING HIS INTERNSHIP IN NEW YORK - FOLLOWED BY IS “AMANDA LIKING GEORGIA?”, AND “HOW ABOUT LIBBY? IS SHE LIKING SAILING THIS SUMMER?” - ALWAYS STAYING CONNECTED AND LOCKED ON TO FAMILY HAPPENINGS. OUR SUNDAY NIGHT DINNERS WOULD INCLUDE A BARRAGE OF QUESTIONS TO THE KIDS AND ALWAYS OF COURSE, “HAVE YOU HEARD FROM J4? HOW IS HE DOING? HE IS SUCH A WONDERFUL YOUNG MAN”, SHE WOULD SAY. SHE WAS SO PROUD OF ALL OF THE GRANDKIDS - ALWAYS GIVING THEM ADVICE AND TELLING THEM TO AIM HIGH IN THEIR GOALS, SHE LOVED THEM DEARLY AND WAS SO THANKFUL TO HAVE THEM.
OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS, I WOULD HEAR PEOPLE ASKING MOM HOW SHE LIKED BEING RETIRED. MOM WOULD LOOK AT THEM AS IF THEY WERE FROM ANOTHER PLANET AND RESPOND, I’M NOT RETIRED. I HAVE NEVER RETIRED. I AM TOO BUSY AND I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO, I CAN’T RETIRE.” SHE WAS ALWAYS MAKING THINGS HAPPEN.
ONE OF HER FAVORITE QUOTES WAS “I WILL REST WHEN I AM DEAD”.
WELL, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT WE ARE ALL HERE TODAY. IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE MOM RESTING AND NOT BEING THE WHIRLWIND SUPERHERO, SAVING THE WORLD.
SO I SAY NOW, MOM , REST IN PEACE, YOUR WORK IS FINALLY DONE.
THE LEGACY YOU LEAVE BEHIND WILL CARRY ON AS YOU WOULD WANT AND YOU CAN BE ASSURED THAT WE WILL ALL DO OUR BEST TO MAKE YOU PROUD.
I WILL MISS YOU DEARLY AND WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU, MY HERO, MY MOM.
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Little Sisters of the Poor
4200 Harewood Rd NE, Washington, DC 20017
- Burns Library at Boston College
- Visitation Friday, August 24, 2018
- Funeral Mass Saturday, August 25, 2018
Margaret Mary (O'Shaughnessy) Heckler
have a memory or condolence to add?ADD A MEMORY
Glenda (Leggitt) Etchison
September 11, 2018
Dear Belinda, Allison, John and family,
Wishing you comfort, love, strength and peace.
It was a privilege to work for Congresswoman Margaret Heckler
and to share memories with you and to hear about her accomplishments.
All the best,
Glenda (Leggitt) Etchison
August 24, 2018
My prayers and condolences to you all on the death of your dear mother and grandmother, Margaret Heckler. I have so many fond memories of delightful times spent with her with our Roman Catholic friends and professional colleagues. I will miss her dearly and I am keeping you all in my prayers during this time of your profound loss. May God bring you His lasting peace and comfort.
One of my fondest memories of time spent with Secretary Heckler was taking her to the 30th anniversary event (2015) in recognition of The Heckler Report and its establishment of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health. She's pictured here with Dr. Cara James, the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at HHS.
The establishment of the HHS Office of Minority Health was one of the most significant outcomes of her 1985 Secretary's Task Force Report on Black and Minority Health, the "Heckler Report". The Heckler report "was a landmark effort in analyzing and synthesizing the present state of knowledge of the major factors that contribute to the health status of Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans." Secretary Heckler was dedicated to improving the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that would aim to eliminate health disparities. She's left a lasting legacy for future generations. May she rest in eternal peace and may perpetual light shine upon her.
August 24, 2018
Dear Belinda, Allison and John,
I am sorry for your loss. “Be not afraid, I go before you always...”
Kevin Decker and family
August 24, 2018
I am so saddened to lose Margaret. She was part of my soul and I will miss her every day for the rest of my life. Holding all the family in the light.
John, Belinda and Allison, I was hoping to travel to DC for the funeral but I can't because I have Bell's Palsy. I am writing a letter that I will send to all of you with some of my memories - both funny and poignant.
August 23, 2018
Memory of Margaret Heckler
One of my Fondest Memories of my dear friend Margaret was a lunch that I arranged at the Washington Country Club where Margaret met two special American-born Irish Brothers, Ed and Jack Farrell. They had similar backgrounds in that they all had Irish immigrant parents. Throughout the lunch the stories of adventures in Ireland grew and grew. By the end of the lunch Margaret and the Farrell brothers had completely bonded and decided to be friends forever. Margaret had completely entranced them!
August 20, 2018
With her fellow Boston College Law School alumni and members of our university community, we have been mourning the loss of an outspoken and tenacious leader whom we are proud to have known and will miss very dearly.
We are also proud to hold in our Burns Library archives Margaret Heckler's personal papers, which document her service in Congress, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Ambassador to Ireland.
From our archives, we share here a photo of Margaret in the latter role at the 1988 Emerald Isle Classic football game in Dublin, with BC President J. Donald Monan, SJ, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ben Briscoe, and Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn.
With warmest wishes to family and friends,
August 11, 2018
Anne Barry Dublin Ireland
Sincere condonlances on the death of your mother.My father Major General JJ Barry and I have spent the evening thinking back on all the memorable encounters with your mother while she was ambassador here. We are greatly saddened by her passing. RIP.
August 10, 2018
Dear Belin, Ali and John,
Your wonderful mother and your entire family were so kind to me. Thanks to Margaret I met Presidents Reagan and George Bush, Sr. in the city I was born in.
Thanks to the faith in Christ she taught you, rest assured that you will see and be with your mother again.
I love all of you. Keith Shaw
August 8, 2018
I was lucky enough to meet Congresswoman Heckler as her Prime nominee to the US Naval Academy in 1967. In an age of political nominations, she conducted a district test which allowed a boy from a low income family to attend Annapolis. I honored the opportunity she gave me by serving two Western Pacific tours as a US Marine Corps officer during Viet Nam. I will always be grateful to this great woman and leader that she was there at that time. My prayers are with her and her family today.
Margaret Mary Heckler (age 87) peacefully passed away on August 6, 2018. She was born June 21, 1931 to John and Bridget O’Shaughnessy in Flushing, New York. Her memories will be cherished by her children Belinda Mulliken, Alison and Mick Heckler-Haensler, John and Kimberly Heckler, 4 grandchildren; and many other relatives and friends. A visitation will be on Friday, August 24th from 5-8 pm at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington, VA. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, August 25th at 10 am at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC.
Margaret Mary O’Shaughnessy Heckler, A Champion
Margaret Heckler passed away peacefully of cardiac arrest on Monday morning, surrounded by family in Arlington, VA. She was 87 years old.
The daughter of Irish immigrants, Heckler was born and raised in New York. She attended Dominican Academy, an all girls Catholic High School. She went to Albertus Magnus College. During her college days she was the first woman elected as the Speaker of the House in the Connecticut Student Legislature. She then attended Boston College Law School and was the first woman graduate there.
Heckler rose to fame in public office: as a congresswoman from Massachusetts’ 10th District, as the Secretary of Health and Human Services under Ronald Reagan, and as the first woman US Ambassador to Ireland.
She was an inspiration to all who knew her.
Margaret Heckler started her congressional career in January 1967 in the 90th Congress after a vigorous campaign and a surprising political upset. During the campaign she jumped on a train in her district where she met potential constituents at every stop along the way. Her efforts paid off when she soundly defeated her opponent, Joseph Martin, an incumbent of 42 years and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
As a freshman congresswoman, Margaret walked into a legislature with 524 men and only 11 women. The need for a bi-partisan womens’ group quickly became apparent to her, and so she founded and co-chaired the Congressional Women’s Caucus, which still functions in its original form today.
She served as the top-ranking Republican on the Veterans Affairs Committee during her entire congressional career of 16 years, helping those who “had the most to lose” while defending our country. She supported aging centers for Veterans Administration hospitals to care for older vets from the WWII era. She also advocated for the creation of counseling programs for the special needs of Vietnam War veterans.
In addition, she worked successfully to make sure the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) who helped fly supplies to soldiers in WWII, got their full military benefits re-instated after the funds had been cut.
Margaret made many Congressional trips overseas in conjunction with her work on the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and other committees. She felt that it was best to see significant situations with her own eyes.
“I visited Saigon when the war was going on and they had an escort for me from the plane. I saw firsthand the suffering of the people.”
She flew to Cambodia with the Congresswomen’s Caucus in a humanitarian effort to ask the Cambodian President to accept aid for his country’s starving children. The trip was a success. She led the first delegation of Congresswomen to China after it reopened to the west (1978).
Margaret’s best known work in Congress was authoring the Equal Credit Act, which provided women with the ability to have credit cards and own homes for the first time (1974).
In 1983, Ronald Reagan appointed her to his Cabinet as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her top priorities were confronting the AIDS crisis and addressing issues of minority health.
In 1985, she was chosen to serve as the first woman US Ambassador to Ireland. “She came with a real personal touch that did not exist before”, said someone who worked closely with her. She came from big Irish families on both sides. She felt at home in Ireland.
“She was feisty and fearless,” a co-worker said. “Instead of playing golf, she worked from 8:00am - 5:00 pm, and then came back to the residence and made calls to Washington. She made it a point to visit almost all of the counties in Ireland.”
She invested much of her time supporting women politicians in Ireland. She met with them and was interested in hearing what they had to say.
A close friend gave her an Irish Wolfhound as a welcome present when she first arrived on the Emerald Isle. She named him Jackson O’Toole. He was much loved at the residence in Phoenix Park.
Margaret worked with the Irish Chamber of Commerce to help bring American companies to Ireland. She brought over Microsoft, Anheuser Busch and many others because Ireland was suffering severely from unemployment. Irish young people were leaving the country to find jobs elsewhere, because there were not enough good paying jobs at home. Margaret’s initiative worked.
Her mantra was work hard, study hard and pray hard.
She believed that “you have to look like a girl; think like a man and work like a dog!”
“I have a great sense of destiny,” Margaret said. “I feel like a pawn on a chessboard and I’m a great believer in the Lord’s plan for each of us. When it’s your turn to move, you move.”
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