Mary Jo (Nelligan) Daly

1937 ~ 2020 (age 83)


Mary Jo Nelligan Daly gently left this world on October 22, 2020. She gave her love unconditionally and was beloved by so many in return. Mary Jo, aka Mom and Gram, was the loving champion of her family and trusted mentor to many colleagues. She lived a full 83 years and left her mark on the lives of her family and friends on both sides of the country. She is survived by her daughters Amy, Megan, Kate, and Erin, and is now with her daughter Liza who passed away in 2003. She is also survived by sons-in-law John, Jim, Rob, Frank, and Chris; grandchildren Shanti, Liam, Connor, Shea, Noah, Nell, Nick, Eliza, Ava, Kai, and Aidan;  grandson-in-law Adam and great-granddaughter Maeve. Mary Jo was a painter and also an effusive writer who captured her life in the bio below. Her family thought it best to share her own positive, honest words with her signature exclamation points! Thank you to all who loved Mary Jo Daly. She was a kind, strong, resilient, non-judgmental woman whom we will love forever. Onward, Mom!


Mary Jo’s life in her own words:

I was welcomed into this world by Mary and Ray Nelligan and older brother, Tim, in 1937.  I grew up in Leonia, New Jersey and in 1955 graduated from Leonia High School, where I was “queen of extracurricular activities” – varsity cheerleader, all-state chorus, Yum Yum in The Mikado, and so on.  Then off to Chestnut Hill College, an all-girls Catholic college outside Philadelphia.  Enrolled as an art major, I met my future husband, Jack Daly, at nearby Villanova University.  I graduated from CHC in June 1959 and married Jack, an ensign in the Coast Guard Reserve, in September.  We spent our first two years together in Norfolk, Virginia, where we kept the Naval Hospital busy having first daughter Liza in 1960, followed by Amy in 1961 – Irish twins, as they say!

We moved back to New Jersey in 1961 and added three more glorious daughters to our family in swift succession:  Megan was born in 1963, Kate in 1964, and Erin in 1967.  We raised our family in Westfield, New Jersey.  As was the custom in those good ol’ days, I was a stay-at-home mom, thoroughly (mostly!) enjoying bringing up my five exuberant girls and engaging in many volunteer activities.  Serving as President of various PTAs, chairing the Westfield Bicentennial Costume Ball and Westfield’s first Town Fair, and creating all marketing materials for the new historic Miller Corey House Museum, gave me the professional experience needed to get a “real” job.

In 1980 I became Public Relations Director for the United Fund of Westfield and soon thereafter, Director of Communications for the United Way of Greater Newark in Newark, New Jersey.  One by one, the Daly girls went off to college.

In 1984, Jack was offered a job in Portland, Oregon.  Although hesitant to make such a move, upon visiting “Ore-gone” I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and hoped that a change of scenery might change the less than merry and bright scene at home.  Not so.  In 1987 I divorced Jack.  Thankfully, by then I was well established in my first job in Portland.  As Director of Marketing and Development for the Portland Opera, I discovered that grand opera was anything but stuffy! All those civilized evenings of lust, greed, murder, and double-crossing introduced me to an art form I will forever love.  The 1994 New Year’s Eve Gala Concert and Dinner Dance with Luciano Pavarotti remains a highlight of my ten glorious years at the Portland Opera. 

During the late 80s and early 90s, each of my daughters married a most wonderful man, and before we knew it, eleven magnificent grandchildren had joined our loving, happy clan.  I am forever blessed by this beautiful family of mine.  In 1995, I seized the opportunity to delve into Oregon’s rich history and joined the Oregon Historical Society as Director of Marketing and Development.  It was a fascinating learning experience.  In addition, I had the pleasure of helping to launch the Mark O. Hatfield Distinguished Historians Forum and bringing such luminaries as David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Michael Beschloss to town for popular lectures.

In 2002 I enjoyed a brief interlude in the University of Oregon’s downtown development office.  I soon realized that I missed the energy on campus, and the next year I moved on to Portland State University as Director of Development for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Plenty of action at PSU!

Of all our fundraising successes, nothing compared with topping the $2.7 million needed to make the vision of Portland’s Walk of the Heroines the beautiful reality that it is today.  Centered in the heart of campus, this unique garden park honors women who have illuminated our lives.  Sadly, the name of my beloved daughter Liza is inscribed on the wall.  Liza, at age 42, died of breast cancer in 2003, leaving her family, sisters, and a legion of friends and colleagues heartbroken.

In 2008 I switched gears and became Director of Marketing for PSU’s School of Fine and Performing Arts.  Lovely to be back in the creative arts, but by 2012, social media were leaving me in the dust.  This ol’ dog just wasn’t interested in learning new blog/tweet/God knows what tricks!  ‘Twas time to retire.  And so, with countless happy memories of my twenty-eight years in Portland, I embarked on a new adventure and moved to a vibrant retirement community in Mercer Island, Washington in May 2012.  Three of my daughters, their husbands, and eight of my eleven grandchildren live close by which has made my transition to the Seattle area a joyful one.  ONWARD!


In lieu of flowers, Donations in Mary Jo’s honor may be made to the United Way of Greater Newark: www.uwnewark.org or to the Seattle area’s ArtsFund: www.artsfund.org


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