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Sister Mary Adrian O’Connor, physical therapist, dead at 90

Sister Mary Adrian O'Connor, who was also a

Sister Mary Adrian O'Connor, who was also a licensed physical therapist, died June 5, 2017. Credit: Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville

Sister Mary Adrian O’Connor had spirituality and physicality. She was a Dominican nun and a licensed physical therapist.

She said she told her patients: “I don’t have a pipeline upstairs. My patient has to work as hard as I do,” according to a 1973 profile in Newsday.

O’Connor, who died June 5 at age 90 after a long illness, spent 71 years as a Dominic nun, her order said.

She was born Sheila Catherine O’Connor in upstate Bedford Hills on April 4, 1927, to Nicholas and Anne Collins O’Connor, both of whom were from Ireland, according to her family.

She entered the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville on Sept. 8, 1945, and received her religious name, Sister Mary Adrian, and took her vows the following August.

Like most in her order, she began by teaching, at first at Fourteen Holy Martyrs in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

She later taught at Incarnation School in Queens Village, and was a volunteer at hospitals.

That led to an interest in physical therapy, and the order sent her to study at St. Louis University.

She received a bachelor’s degree there, then got a master’s degree in physical therapy from New York University.

She went to work full time as a physical therapist at St. Catherine’s Hospital in 1953, then at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, Queens, and at Brunswick Hospital in Amityville, from 1969 to 1985. All those hospitals have since closed.

In 1989 she left Brunswick to work at the Good Samaritan Home Health Agency, and in 1998 began devoting herself to helping other nuns at the motherhouse who were recuperating from bone and joint operations.

Sister Catherine Benedict Hagens said O’Connor helped her recover from injuries on three occasions.

“I’m living proof that she believed where there was a will to heal, the patient would be cured,” Hagens said.

“The night before she passed I sat at her bedside and said: ‘This is Catherine. I just want you to know you were the best physical terrorist.’ ”

“She smiled,” Hagens said.

O’Connor was known as the honorary “godmother” to Sara Jane, a dog who resided with Sister Marie Rabuse and Sisters Mary and Theresa Weber.

O’Connor’s niece, Joan O’Connor of Houston, said her aunt once said, “that if she ever came back in another life, she wanted be a veterinarian. She loved dogs.”

O’Connor is also survived by a brother, Tom, of upstate Katonah.

The wake took place June 8 at St. Albert’s Chapel at the motherhouse. There was a funeral Mass at the motherhouse on June 9, followed by burial at the sisters’ cemetery on the grounds.

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