WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-05 > 1147041536
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: HOUK: Mary Hammond O'Brien Houk--d4/1/2006>USA
Date: Sun, 7 May 2006 23:38:56 +0100
Mary Hammond (O'Brien ) Houk, 97, of Bellaire, formerly of Shaker Heights,
died on Jan. 4, 2006. She is best remembered as a woman of great charm,
intellect, and moral conviction who was immensely proud of her
Irish-Catholic heritage but passionate about the possibilities of her own
country; who could entertain complete strangers with rich stories from her
life then draw them into animated conversation about themselves. When people
suggested that she write down her experiences she often said, "I am not an
historian; I am a raconteur." Her love of laughter and fun served her well
through many difficult times in her life. Despite the loss of loved ones, a
cancer diagnosis, and personal set backs, her zest for life prevailed.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the eldest daughter of William L. O'Brien and
Elizabeth (Hammond) O'Brien, Mary was a precocious and inquisitive youngster
who taught herself to read by age four. After her family moved to New Haven,
Conn., she thrived in the atmosphere of academic and creative challenge and,
here, began her music and theater training. A member of the New Haven
Fencing Club, she became an extremely competent fencer working with Bobby
Grasson, coach of the Yale fencing team.
During high school, she attended St. Mary's Academy on a piano scholarship.
At the age of 16 she entered Albertus Magnus College, a member of that
school's first four-year graduating class, completing her bachelors of arts
degree in English, speech, and play production in 1929. While working as an
English and drama teacher for the New Haven Public Schools, she was a
visiting instructor and director in the theater program at Albertus; she
performed in and produced many local community theater works; and she began
her masters degree in play production at Columbia University in New York
City. She married Dr. John Walter Houk in 1935 and moved to Shaker Heights,
Even with the demands of running a doctor's household and raising her
family, she applied her skills and abundant energy to many endeavors. An
advocate of public school education, she was an active member of the Shaker
PTA; she was involved in both the League of Women Voters and the Democratic
Party, acting as a precinct chairwoman for the Kennedy Campaign in 1960; she
was an area representative on the Cleveland Safety Council; and, with Dr.
Houk, entertained international visitors as a host family for the Council of
Second to her family, her passion was the theater. In the 1940s and 1950s
she was a regular performer in The Shaker Players, as well as a producer and
director for the organization. She was one of the founders of the Shaker
Children's Theater ensemble which had its hey-day in the 1950s. She
constantly sought out challenging theatrical literature for performance and
collaborated in the writing of scripts when the literature could not be
found that met directors' standards. She also could be found helping out or
participating in events at the Cleveland Playhouse.
In the mid-1960s, the family moved to Roanoke. In the five years that she
lived there, she was active in the civil rights movement and voter
registration drives. She served on the Roanoke Valley Human Rights Council.
As a volunteer for the TAP program _ a predecessor of the Head Start
Program - she worked with preschoolers who had underdeveloped language
skills and little exposure to conversation, creative play, or books.
Since her husband's death in 1968, she has made her home in Bellaire.
Between trips to visit family, she "kept busy" volunteering at the Bellaire
Public Library, assisting with the establishment of the Bellaire Area
Historical Society, participating in the Forest Home Township Ladies Aide
Society, and volunteering at the Meadowbrook Medical Care facility. One of
her most lasting accomplishments was her revival (at age 75) of the music
ministry at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Bellaire. After supporting the
installation of a new organ and turning her job over to a new ministry, she
continued to provide the music for the Friday Masses at the Meadowbrook
Medical Care facility until the age of 93.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Dr. John Walter Houk; a brother,
William L. O'Brien; a sister, Marguerite O'Brien Saunders; a daughter,
Margaret Ann (Houk) King; a grand daughter; and a great grandson.
She is survived by a brother, Captain Frank O'Brien, USN, ret. of
Sykesville, MD; sons, John W. Houk III of Noblesville, IN and Dr. William M.
Houk, Capt, USN, ret. of Walkersville, MD; daughters, Lisa Houk Wamsley of
Twinsburg, Ohio and Sara Frances Houk of Acton, MA; and nephew, William
Saunders of Tampa, FL. Her descendants include 14 grandchildren; 21 great
grandchildren; and two great-great grandchildren.
The Rite of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Dominic's Catholic
Church, Shaker Heights on Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. Burial will follow at Crown Hill
Cemetery in Twinsburg, Ohio. A memorial service will be celebrated at St.
Luke the Evangelist Church in Bellaire at a later date.
|HOUK: Mary Hammond O'Brien Houk--d4/1/2006>USA by "Peter_McCrae" <>|