About Marie Killilea




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"I have a favor to ask, Mommy." She started to peel her orange.

"What is it, hon? You look unusually serious."

"Can I borrow the movie on C.P.?"

I got a nice warm feeling all over. "That's a wonderful idea. Of course you may borrow it, but I think I had better speak to Sister first. Whatever prompted such an idea?" I was pleased but immensely curious.

"Well, after all," she answered, wiping some juice from her chin, then looking at me with grave intenseness, "you're not so young any more and when you die someone will have to do the work."

I collapsed slowly against the back of my chair. I was thirty-two and though I felt a little seamy some days, salespeople still addressed me as "Miss." I put my hand to my cheek. Maybe it was time to get my first facial. I touched my hair. Maybe if I rebudgeted carefully for a week or two or three, I might be able to manage a permanent.

~from "Karen"

Marie Killilea at age 71, from Gannett Westchester Newspapers, July 13, 1984

  • Marie Lyons Killilea was born June 28, 1913 in New York City to Tom and Marie Powers Lyons.

  • Her father was a sportswriter for the New York Sun and later became co-owner of a Wall Street brokerage firm.

  • Attended Mount St. Vincent Academy in Riverdale. Attended the Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School.

  • Married James Killilea on July 25, 1933. Primary residence was Larchmont, NY.

  • She was an active lobbyist in Albany for the rights of cerebral palsy patients. Her work culminated in the formation of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Westchester County. Later, she was a co-founder of the National United Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

  • She wrote a novel, "Karen," which became a best seller in 1952 and has never been out of print. A sequel, "With Love From Karen," was published in 1963 and it is still in print. She wrote other books as well.

  • "Karen" won a Christopher Award and was one of the 30 Notable Books of 1953. Her books, totaling 4 million copies, have been published in 11 languages. Mrs. Killilea received letters from all over the world, and she once estimated she answered 15,000 or more.

  • She died on October 23, 1991 at the age of 78 of respiratory ailments.At the time of her death she was survived by her husband, Jimmy (who died a few years later at the age of 80) and four children: Marie Irish, Karen Killilea, Kristin Viltz, and Rory Killilea.