Dec. 3, 1935-Oct. 8, 2023
Palo Alto, California
Born on December 3, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, Patricia Ann Flynn led a life that took her around the country and world, but she always remained rooted in home. She died this past Sunday, October 8, in Palo Alto, California, where she lived for nearly the last half century.
Pat’s fierce sense of home revolved around family, especially her husband, children, grandchildren, and great grandchild, but extended to her cousins, nephews, nieces, in-laws, dear friends, neighbors, and the many communities in which she actively participated. Pat naturally accepted responsibility and burden, wherever and whenever it might benefit others. She perpetually cared for her house and her children, then her many guests, even as she exhibited a unique determination and talent in a variety of the arts. Her generosity appeared in the form of philanthropy, as well.
Even as Pat raised a large family, joined in church and school activities, volunteered prodigiously, and orchestrated more than a half-dozen major moves spanning the length of the country, she did not give up on completing her college degree work. She proudly graduated from San Francisco State University in 1980 with a BA in English Literature at the age of 45. Pat easily bellowed out crossword puzzle answers like “Carousel,” “Vanity Fair,” and “Alas” as she folded laundry, prepared meals, and fixed the toaster.
Pat was born in Brooklyn to Frank V. and Maude F. O’Neil and grew up in Queens. She attended St. Pascal Baylon elementary school, Immaculate Conception middle school, and The Mary Louis Academy High School, graduating in 1953. She developed a life-long love of music playing both violin and piano in the high school orchestra. She attended St Joseph’s College for Women for several years before meeting and marrying the love of her life, Michael J. Flynn, in 1957. Her son Frank and daughter Kathleen were born in Poughkeepsie, New York; her daughter Terry in West Lafayette, Indiana; and her youngest child, Margaret, in Poughkeepsie, New York.
The family lived in Evanston, Illinois from 1964-1969, where mom loved walking her young children to school and getting involved in PTA, the school board, and scouts. The family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, and finally to the Bay Area in 1974, settling eventually in their “forever” home in Palo Alto, California.
Pat played organ for her church and liberally gave her time to other activities and causes related to her children and her community. As her children left the nest, Pat continued to play music and dedicated time to the local classical music scene, including Lamplighters of San Francisco, where she served on the board, and the Music Guild at Stanford, where she helped organize concerts for school children.
Pat was a member of the Hibernian Society of San Francisco, and loved all things Irish. Irish travel guides and novels, as well as works of major Irish poets, lined her bookshelves; Irish paintings and prints adorned her walls. She recited limericks and verse, and occasionally sang the country’s popular ballads and folk tunes. Pat and Mike spent a year abroad with their extended Irish family in Mayo Abbey in County Mayo and visited frequently throughout her life. She exalted in her family’s Irish heritage and was a superfan of cousin Bennie’s published family history, Living Outside the Castle Walls, where many family stories came to live.
Pat also served at the Bay Window in Menlo Park, a non-profit restaurant whose proceeds supported local social services, and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Peninsula. Eventually, Pat joined and served for many years on the board of her favorite nonprofit, Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc. in Palo Alto, California.
Pat combined her gift for crafting with her enormous generosity, often working with thread and bows and glitter to create intimate, thoughtful gifts, or their wrapping. Pat needed only slight pretext to buy and make presents that she delighted in bestowing on the people in her large circle of loved ones. When friends and family arrived in Palo Alto or Watsonville or Mayo Abby, as they often did, Pat would commonly give them some kind of gift, as though she were thanking them for their extended stay in her home. Her Macy’s card was a weapon of choice.
Pat’s favorite pastime of all was being a grandma. She took the word spoiled to new heights with her nine grandchildren, but more than that she knew how to make them laugh, to make them happy, and to make them proud. Pat seemed so genuinely impressed with their every small step or juvenile accomplishment or collegiate success that they couldn’t help but believe they were stars.
Pat once said that her greatest accomplishment was seeing her four children through college, but her family would say it was her ability to make anyone feel welcome and at home. Her radiant smile and energetic face gave away the pleasure she took in giving pleasure. She made dedication to family and friends seem effortless, and her selflessness was so imbedded in her personality that it rarely called attention to itself.
Throughout Pat’s travels and experiences, she collected stories, which she told with her hands and eyes as well as her words. She told stories of clumsy basketball games in Queens, her middle daughter mucking up Lynne Cheney’s fur coat in Evanston, faculty dinners gone awry at Stanford, joyful family reunions in Mayo…She sometimes slipped into a Queens accent or threw off an Irish colloquialism. In her stories, as in her life, Pat always let the other characters have the starring parts, maybe never realizing or caring that her own role was so substantial.
Pat’s wonderful spirit will endure in the hearts and lives of all who have been so fortunate to know her.
Pat leaves behind her beloved husband Michael and her three adult children: Frank, Kathleen, and Margaret. Her daughter, Terry, preceded her in death and is with her now in heaven. She is survived by her adored grandchildren (her little snowflakes): Brendan, Devin, Willie, Megan, Evan, Kyle, Fiona, Declan, and Dustin. She was blessed to live long enough to meet Maya, who officially made her the Great Grandmother we always knew she was. She dearly loved and was loved by her children and grandchildren through marriage, and will also be missed by so many cousins, nephews and nieces from New York and Ireland.