Remembering Catherine O’Neillby Senator Barbara Boxer
Posted on 2013-01-23
BOXER. Mr. President, today I ask my colleagues to join
me in honoring Catherine O'Neill, the great advocate for refugee women
and children who died in Los Angeles last month at age 70. Cathy was my
friend and neighbor, and I will miss her.
Catherine was born in 1942 in Queens, NY, the daughter of Irish immigrants Patrick and Bridget Vesey. After graduating from St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn and teaching as a Catholic missionary in Texas, she earned master's degrees in social work from Howard University and in international affairs from Columbia.
Cathy had an extraordinary career as a social worker, writer, editorial director, businesswoman, and director of the UN Information Center in Washington, DC. She was also active in political life, twice running for office in California and serving as finance director for Governor Jerry Brown's 1976 presidential campaign, but she is best known for her groundbreaking and heroic efforts to help refugee women and children.
In 1989, after visiting refugee camps around the world as a board member of the humanitarian International Rescue Committee, Cathy became a founder of the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, now Women's Refugee Commission.
As the Commission's board chair, Cathy traveled the world to listen to refugee women and children and learn about their most pressing needs. She attracted prominent women journalists, academics, and philanthropists to the Commission and became a leading advocate for refugee issues on Capitol Hill, at the UN, and in the media. Under her leadership, the Women's Refugee Commission has shaped policies and practices in the U.S. and around the world to address the needs of women and children displaced by war, persecution, and natural disasters.
On behalf of the people of California, I send my gratitude and condolences to Cathy's husband, Richard Reeves, her daughter Fiona Reeves, sons Colin and Conor O'Neill, Jeffrey Reeves, her grandchildren, and her sister Mary Ann Garvey. Catherine O'Neill was an amazing person who made our world a better and more compassionate place, and we will miss her dearly.