WALLINGFORD - Elizabeth O'Rourke, 70, died on May 3, 2017 after a two-year fight with pancreatic cancer.
She was the beloved wife of Kevin O'Rourke and mother of Matthew O’Rourke.
The disease may have slowed her, but it didn’t define her years.
Elizabeth was born in the Elm City, New Haven, on July 26, 1946 to the late Elmer and Josephine White. She went by “Betty” (or in one instance, “Mom”), and studied at Albertus Magnus College, where her lifelong love for politics grew.
In the 1970s, she worked for the mayor of Bloomington, Ind., and later in life she helped with phone banks for both local candidates and those running for national office. After moving back to Connecticut, she married on September 16, 1983 and became a professional mom in 1984. She then worked for Hydro-Air in North Haven, where she served as an expediter for more than 20 years.
She believed that travel was the best education, so she lived in places like Indiana, Louisiana, and Scotland, but also visited parts of England, France, and Italy where she debated how much “formaggio” should be on a dish (sometimes none was best). She was an admirer of natural beauty, but not a fan of heights. During a family trip out west to the Grand Canyon and other national parks in 2000, she’d peek up only occasionally to take in the views, and preferred looking “down” at her New York Times crossword puzzle book.
She didn’t falter in her devotion to daily acts of kindness. Nothing in life couldn’t be solved, or at least helped, by a handwritten note. She left them in lunchboxes for her husband and son, even when they might have been too old for such things. They appeared on the counter as recycled reminders -- “lunch is in the fridge” -- and sometimes as reminders to herself during cancer treatments (“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”) Sometimes they appeared as thank you cards, or a Shoebox card when a laugh was most appropriate or a text message abundant with emojis.
Kindness extended beyond the family circle. She advocated for the down and out in her daily life, writing letters to officials and companies when she felt something was unjust; buying boots for a homeless man she met while at her job; and preparing special bags of treats for neighborhood kids on Halloween year after year. Furry friends were also known to successfully negotiate table scraps (or chips) from her hands.
It was never proven, but pinstripes may have run on her blood. She was a lifelong New York Yankees fan, and when she wasn’t working on a crossword puzzle, she could be found cheering (or jeering) her favorite team while watching a game or listening to John Sterling’s play-by-play on the radio. In her free time, she planned parties with friends and for family, and often experimented with desserts -- usually for better than for worse. She didn’t mind a game of Trivial Pursuit, a political debate, walks in the neighborhood, or a glass of wine (bottle or box mattered not). She may have watched every mystery show on PBS once, or more than twice, but the thrill remained.
In addition to her husband and son, Elizabeth is survived by her brothers William and David White; their spouses Diane White and Ginny White; her bestest friend Mary Santarcangelo, and her brother-in-law Timothy O’Rourke, along with several nieces and nephews.
Friends may call on Saturday, May 6th from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon at the B.C. Bailey Funeral Home, 273 South Elm St., Wallingford. A service in celebration of her life will follow immediately at noon. Interment will be private. To leave a message of remembrance, please visitwww.BaileyCares.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation be made to the National Pancreas Foundation, www.pancreasfoundation.org