Catherine Nolan O'Donnell, a pioneering Scottish police officer, accomplished gourmet cook, private chef to New York City Mayor John Lindsay and mother of Nassau District Court Judge Colin O'Donnell, died Sunday at her home in Oyster Bay after a long illness. She was 78.
"There weren't many women police officers back then," Colin O'Donnell said. "In the photo of her graduating class in 1957, there was one other woman."
He said his mother stayed on the job in Glasgow with the British Transport Police Department until shortly before she immigrated to the United States in 1961. She became a U.S. citizen about 1965, her son said.
His mother worked for Lindsay's sister, Eleanor Schieffelin, before becoming the mayor's cook when he moved into Gracie Mansion in 1966. "My dad was the butler" at Gracie Mansion, Colin O'Donnell said, adding that his parents worked there about two years.
Catherine O'Donnell went on to hold a number of jobs, including as a library assistant at the Friends Academy in Locust Valley and operating her own catering business. "She worked that part time for about 40 years. That helped put me through college," Colin O'Donnell said.
He said when he was nominated as a judicial candidate, his mother "tirelessly" campaigned for him. "I don't think there was a parishioner she didn't ask to take one of my bumper stickers or a sign," Colin O'Donnell said. "She was my stealth campaign manager."
She was an active parishioner of St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay and a past regent of the Catholic Daughters of America -- Court Sacred Heart. She was a Glen Cove Hospital Auxiliary Gift Shop volunteer and 40-year volunteer of the Grenville Baker Boys & Girls Club's Mothers Club and Clothing Sale Committee in Locust Valley.
"Her work here was one of her passions," said club executive director Ray Reyes.
Christine Thomaides, the club's head of development, said O'Donnell was "one of the most well-respected and admired volunteers."
Besides her son, she is survived by her husband, Frank.
A viewing will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Oyster Bay Funeral Home.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Dominic at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. There will be a private cremation with interment to follow at the Locust Valley Cemetery.
The family asks that donations be made in her name to the Grenville Baker Boys and Girls Club, P.O. Box 344, Locust Valley, NY 11560, or the North Shore University Hospital Auxiliary, 101 St. Andrews Lane, Glen Cove, NY 11542.