Colleen Marie (Fitzgerald) McNamara
(August 1, 1958 – July 10, 2015)
Colleen Marie (Fitzgerald) McNamara, loving bride/wife and mother of three, passed away peacefully on the morning of July 10, 2015 in Omaha, NE after an extended battle against (uterine) leiomyosarcoma. She was surrounded by family and two priests at the end.
Her cancer was diagnosed in Holy week, April 2012 when she had a hysterectomy. Over the next three years she would endure two surgeries to remove tumors from her lungs, a major back surgery to remove a rib and part of a vertebrae, six months of one chemo and another four months of another chemo, 15 days of radiation to the spine, another 10 days for palliative radiation on a tumor and then another 10 days radiation treatment to prevent paralysis (which was not successful). She never complained and took it all with grace and humor. She even had nurses come see her in hospice from the hospital.
Colleen was born in Estherville, IA on August 1, 1958, the second daughter of Eugene and Marjorie (Schiltz) Fitzgerald. She was raised on the family farm south of Armstrong, IA, and has two sisters, Rose of Emmetsburg, IA and Maureen of Omaha, NE.
In 1976, Colleen graduated from St. John’s Catholic High School, Bancroft, IA. She spent two years at Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, where she met her future husband, Mark McNamara, and transferred to Iowa State University. She was awarded a B.S. in Civil Engineering there in 1980, Summa Cum Laude, and married Mark on May 31, 1980. Colleen worked at the Iowa Department of Transportation until they moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1981, where they both found careers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District. Colleen worked as a structural engineer through the birth of their first child in October of 1985. She delighted in raising their children well.
Colleen had boundless energy, devoting herself to her family, and to numerous organizations. Beginning in 1984, Colleen and Mark taught Natural Family Planning for Couple to Couple League. CCL offered her many opportunities to use her organizational skills in a variety of roles, including head chair-couple for the Omaha 1994 CCL Convention. She gave talks at schools, Engaged Encounters, and other events. She initiated a Mother/Daughter program in 1990 and later on, a Father/Son program to improve parent/child communications during the transition from adolescence to adulthood, often using family anecdotes to engage both parents and children.
Colleen and Mark enjoyed traveling with their family to CCL’s National conventions. Colleen made friends easily and built lasting relationships with other convention-goers. Colleen took part in several pro-life activities including the Christ the King Pro-life Committee, and chaperoned many bus trips with teenagers going to the National March for Life in Washington, DC.
Colleen and Mark gave NFP presentations at the international Institute for Priestly Formation. Through IPF, she adopted many ‘spiritual sons,’ praying for them, encouraging them and building lasting friendships. She also took local seminarians under her wing as spiritual sons.
In 1996 she began homeschooling. She worked in conjunction with the CHAO, serving as president two times. Her love and devotion for the teenagers shone brilliantly as did the deep joy she found in music. She organized Anima Christi Teens which gave homeschoolers opportunities to socialize. She directed a homeschool children’s choir and encouraged children to join the Nebraska Choral Arts Society (NCAS), where she took up another mantle as a parent-in-charge for the teen choir (CAST). When NCAS disbanded, she and choir director Kat Doebel launched a new choir, at the behest of the teens: the Omaha Academy Choir, sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She also enjoyed dancing, and for many years organized teen ballroom dance classes, taking part whenever she could!
Colleen sang in Christ the King’s choir, and in Voices of Omaha’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Holland Center. Colleen loved quick wit and laughter; her family was her biggest source of joy. She enjoyed gardening, especially tending her flowers. Colleen was an active member of the Father Edward J. Flanagan League, and supported the Archdiocesan case for his canonization. In all of her activities, Colleen’s tremendous love and devotion to her Catholic faith was manifested with a quiet grace and acceptance of the diverse waves life can bring.
Colleen is survived by her husband, Mark T. McNamara; children Edward, Erin and David, all of Omaha; by her mother, Marjorie Fitzgerald of Bancroft, IA, her sisters, Rose and Maureen Fitzgerald, and her beloved nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father, Eugene Fitzgerald.
If you would like to make a donation in memory of Colleen, please click here. (When donating through PayPal, you can use the Designation Box to specify a Fund.)