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Published: Friday, 8/8/2014

Maureen O’Malley: 1930-2014; Actress loved to draw laughs, smiles on stage

O'Malley O'Malley

Maureen O’Malley, who for years displayed her acting chops and creative talents with various theater groups, died Saturday at ProMedica Lake Park, Sylvania. She was 83.

She suffered from a severe case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and was receiving hospice care, her daughter, Anne O’Malley Barron, said.

A longtime fixture in local theater circles, Ms. O’Malley performed with the Village Players Theatre, Toledo Repertoire Theatre, Cathedral Players, and also designed and sewed costumes.

She loved the arts and music, played the piano, and encouraged others in creative pursuits, Ms. O’Malley Barron said. Comedic roles were a special forte.

“She could make you smile and laugh in a heartbeat,” said Jake Gordy, Village Players board president, who appeared with her in a March, 2000, production of the musical 70, Girls, 70. “She was always very happy to be on stage.”

Born Sept. 25, 1930, Ms. O’Malley grew up in Chicago, where her parents settled after coming to the United States from Ireland, her daughter said. Nuns at the Catholic school she attended “believed in the refinement of playing a musical instrument,” and she honed her piano skills, her daughter said.

Later, she would keep a baby grand piano in her living room and give lessons.

Dark-haired, green-eyed, and petite with a 19-inch waist, she was a hand model for television ads touting soft drinks and exemplified the ladylike style of her era: Plenty of hats and a large assortment of wrist and elbow-length gloves.

Those who knew her told her daughter, “Your mom’s going to be waving with white gloves from heaven.”

An accomplished seamstress, she made her own patterns using paper bags, sewed her own formal dresses, and created costumes for the theater.

She moved to Toledo in 1960, after her husband’s job transferred them to the city. They later divorced.

Her daughter said Ms. O’Malley made the most of living in Toledo, though the difference between it and the much larger city of Chicago “was a big jolt.”

She spent a summer with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, attended Mundelein College in Chicago, and finished her degree at the University of Toledo in 1979, according to university records. She worked for the Diocese of Toledo, her daughter said.

She moved from the Old West End to Lake Park about three years ago.

Joseph Moran got to know Ms. O’Malley through her daughter, and the actress encouraged him to audition for the Cathedral Players, a troupe associated with Rosary Cathedral.

“She really didn’t hold back, if she wanted to go do something, she would go do it,” he said. “She was very supportive, but also very firm in her beliefs.”

Surviving are her daughter, Anne O’Malley Barron, and a grandson.

A memorial service will be scheduled in September; Walker Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

The family suggests tributes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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