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Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy led Cleveland Council on World Affairs: obituary

July 10, 2018

Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy led Cleveland Council on World Affairs: obituary

MENTOR, Ohio—A nearly lifelong traveler who ran the Cleveland Council on World Affairs died Sunday in Concord, N.H., from a brain aneurysm.

Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy, 61, led the council for six years, currently as executive officer.

Her father, Kevin O’Donnell, had run the Peace Corps, raised the family partly in South Korea and chaired the local council before his daughter took a job there. Her husband, Neil McCarthy, had served on the council’s board, too.

She visited many countries, lived briefly in her ancestral Ireland and, not eating meat, served fish dinners at her home in Mentor to dozens of visitors from around the world.

O’Donnell-McCarthy was born in Fairview Park. Her mother died from an aneurysm soon after bearing her sixth child. Her widowed father married a late friend’s widow with two children. The combined family spent four years in Seoul and two in Potomac, Md.

Maura O’Donnell graduated from Lakewood High School and Boston College. She married in 1981 and taught third grade at St. Raphael Catholic Church in Bay Village.

Then she and her family spent 19 years in Ashtabula. She worked there for Carlisle’s department store and Farmers National Bank and led an area planning effort called ACT 2000.

“Ashtabula didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grew up,” she told The Plain Dealer in 1993. “Now we are looking at things that we ought to fund, looking at quality of life issues, what our vision of the future ought to be.”

The family spent two years in Midland, Michigan, then moved to Mentor in 2003. She consulted with nonprofits and began to volunteer for the council.

Joining its staff in 2012, she helped to lead the International Visitor Leadership Program, Community Connections Ukraine and Kosovo Youth Exchange Program and the Summer ESL [English as a Second Language] Immersion Program. She became executive director later that year.

“Maura was a tremendous leader,” Heather Hodges, the council’s part-time president and a former ambassador, said today. The council’s website says O-Donnell-McCarthy “gave CCWA her full commitment and energy and played a pivotal role in growing the organization and assuring its future success.”

Among many other civic roles, she served on the board of Holden Arboretum. She liked to make ikebana flower arrangements.

O’Donnell-McCarthy struggled with bone marrow cancer in recent years and had a marrow transplant in 2014. She died while visiting a cousin in New Hampshire.

Survivors include her husband, four children and two grandchildren. Calling hours will be 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday at McGorray-Hanna Funeral Home, 5620 Center Ridge Rd, in Westlake. A funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Malachi Catholic Church, 2459 Washington St., Cleveland.

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