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 Helen Margaret <I>Galvin</I> O'Connell

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Helen Margaret Galvin O'Connell

  • Birth 15 Jul 1917 Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana, USA
  • Death 29 Jun 1997 Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana, USA
  • Burial Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana, USA
  • Memorial ID 6931002

Margaret Helen Galvin was born in Butte, Montana, on July 15, 1917. She was one of eight children born to Frank and Margie Galvin. She graduated from Great Falls High School and lived most of her life in Great Falls.

In 1935 she married Clarence J. O'Connell at St. Joseph's Parish. Their children included Patricia Maureen (Nene) Stone, Sharron Schneiderhan, Patrick O'Connell, Mickey Ledford, and John O'Connell (deceased at birth.) Her husband Clarence passed away in 1981. They were blessed with twelve grandchildren and twenty-two great grandchildren.

Besides her children, Helen is survived by four sisters: Fran Gleason, Connie Golightly, Audrey Cefro, and Bridgie Jimenez; and a brother, Pat Galvin. Two sisters, Ruth Butler and Hazel Mauch, preceded her in death.

In 1949, Helen was the first woman elected to the Great Falls City Council, and later served eight terms in the Montana state legislature. She was considered a powerhouse in Great Falls' old mayor-council form of government. As a legislator, she displayed equal vigor in championing or opposing causes. She fought fiercely for bettering Great Falls' West Side and supported economic development and pension improvements for labor. She was more conservative on social issues. She was an outspoken opponent of abortion, and her effort to overturn Montana's unisex insurance law in 1987 was foiled only by a veto from then-Governor Ted Schwinden.

Helen was the first woman to be elected to the Great Falls city council. After an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1950, and time off to raise her family, she served five more terms on the council, including two as president. As a council member, she worked to improve retirement benefits for the Great Falls Police Department and was instrumental in getting West Junior High School built. During her career, she was designated as the first honorary member of the Montana Highway Patrol.

In 1974 she was elected to the Montana House of Representatives from the west side of Great Falls. She served eight terms, and in 1990, when she announced she would not seek re-election, it came as a surprise to leaders of both political parties. She said "It was time to pass the torch to somebody else. It's been practically 40 years of public service. I hope I have served my people well."
She didn't pass the torch all that far, as her brother Pat Galvin, was elected to her vacated seat.

In 1991, at age 73, she was delighted when she visited the House of Representatives and received a standing ovation. Rep. Bob Ream vacated his seat to let her sit in the chair she had occupied during her many years in the House. She also received an essay about her written by Brian Johnson, a junior at C.M. Russell High School. In part, Johnson wrote, "The absence of this woman in the political arena has left a giant void that will never be completely filled." He noted that Helen's service and dedication had elevated her "into the forefront among famous women in Montana."

Besides politics, Helen was active in PTA and the activities of St. Joseph's Parish. One of her joys was following sports, especially Notre Dame football. She kept up with day to day matters by being on the phone and listening to her scanner.

As we say goodbye to Helen, we're reminded of something she always said: "Say a prayer and drive with care..."


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 15 Nov 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6931002
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Helen Margaret Galvin O'Connell (15 Jul 1917–29 Jun 1997), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6931002, citing Mount Olivet Cemetery, Great Falls, Cascade County, Montana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .