MARY ALICE O’CONNOR CONATY, 86, of Huntington, W.Va., passed away peacefully on Thursday morning, September 19, 2019, surrounded by loved ones. On Saturday, September 28, a Family and Friends Remembrance Service will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Huntington at 12:30 p.m., followed by a Memorial Mass at 1:00 p.m. A Celebration of Life will be held earlier in the day at Woodlands Retirement Community, where she had been a resident for the past nine years. At her request, a burial service will be held at a later time, as she chose to donate her body to the Marshall University School of Medicine for the advancement of medical education and research.
Mary Alice is survived by her six children: Mary Beth Sherrier (Edward), Karen Hock (Jeffrey), Kushleen Conaty, Rosanne Conaty, Robert Conaty, Jr. (Theresa), and Margaret Pflug (Brian); eleven grandchildren; and one great grandchild. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Judge Robert C. Conaty, and her parents, Patrick Joseph and Anna Mae McCullen O’Connor.
Born on August 4, 1933, in St. Louis, Missouri, Mary Alice moved to Washington, DC, after graduating from high school, taking classes in the evening at both Georgetown University and Catholic University while working for the FBI as a member of the stenographer pool reporting directly to J. Edgar Hoover. According to family legend, Bob Conaty, who was completing his law degree at Georgetown, fell in love with her at first sight as he saw her standing on the street corner, waiting for their newly established carpool. They married in 1956 and moved to Huntington, her husband’s hometown, where she attended Marshall University, first completing her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and English, and later three master’s degrees in Counseling and Rehabilitation, Special Education and Social Work while managing three political campaigns for her husband and raising their six children.
As a member of St. Joseph’s Parish Council, a sustaining member of the Junior League, and a member of the Cabell County Executive Committee as her district’s elected Republican Committee Woman, Mary Alice sought to give back to the community. With the unexpected death of her husband in 1978, she began a long and varied career, which included teaching as an adjunct professor at Marshall University, pioneering a therapy program for dually addicted homeless veterans at The Prestera Center, tutoring both students and adults throughout the region as a language therapist, and establishing Energy Shares, which continues to offer innovative therapies for holistic wellness.
She took great pride in having voted in every election since 1956 and in watching her children, and now her grandchildren, earn their college degrees. She was deeply religious and spiritual, held firm political opinions, and delighted in bringing people together to share love and laughter. Mary Alice will be remembered fondly for her warmth, grace and humor, for her extraordinary collection of elephant figurines, for her amazing fashion sense and prowess at bridge, and for her uncanny ability to make those around her believe in their own limitless potential to be their best selves.
In lieu of flowers, those who wish may make a donation to the Marshall University Foundation in honor of Mary Alice O'Connor Conaty to support scholarships in the liberal arts. http://www.marshall.edu/foundation/general-faq/ . Johnson Tiller Funeral Home is assisting the family.
The Marshall University Foundation, Inc.
519 John Marshall Drive, Huntington WV 25703