Patricia Dolores Gallagher Sheehan

Patricia SheehanPatricia Dolores Gallagher Sheehan, mother of 11, grandmother of 24, great-grandmother of eight, a Brooklyn-born homemaker and artist who lived 60 of her 91 in Ridgefield, CT, died Friday, May 15, 2020, at Hancock Hall in Danbury.
Her legacy includes a clan of descendants that now stretches from the Philippines to Hawaii to California, Georgia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and still includes three families in Ridgefield.
“We all loved her and we’ll never forget her,” said Teresa Sheehan Tocantins, one of her eight daughters.
She was born in 1929, year of the stock market crash that started the Great Depression. The youngest of five children of John and Constance Gallagher, she grew up in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, an Irish-American stronghold where kids played in the streets and in Prospect Park, people gathered on the front stoops of brownstone buildings, and an organ grinder came by with his monkey.
Before the depression years her family had owned and operated a cut glass factory, P.J. Gallagher Glass, in downtown Manhattan in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, and all her life she loved giving cut glass as gifts, and would discuss styles of Irish crystal and glass.
She went to St. Savior’s School in Brooklyn, Eden Hall in Philadelphia, and followed several of her sisters to New York’s Manhattanville College.
Her future husband, Dr. James Sheehan, was from the same neighborhood in Brooklyn, the fourth eldest of 14 children, and ran track at Manhattan College. She was friends with of one of his sisters. He was known as “Blackie” for his dark good looks and, she loved to recall, always had his nose buried in a book. One night she was without a date for an event at the fashionable Stork Club, and he offered to take her, starting a romance that her family was not entirely comfortable with.
They were married on New Year’s Eve 1949 and moved to Climax, Colorado, where Dr. Sheehan’s first job after graduating from medical school was tending to the workers in a molybdenum mine at nearby Leadville. As a new bride, she had to adjust to the high altitude of mountain living. She was trying to learn to cook and found she couldn’t even make water boil, and then learned the art of pressure-cooking every meal. She also learned to ski, and used a flashlight to lead her husband’s car home through a blizzard on the winding mountain roads.
They moved next to San Diego, California, and the first of her children was born while her husband was serving on a destroyer in the Pacific during the Korean War. They returned home to New York, and moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1955 on the advice of Dr. Ted Safford, a friend of Dr. Sheehan’s from medical school who had moved to the town himself.
The Sheehans lived for years in a big Victorian on Main Street beside the Ridgefield Library.
With a growing brood of children Mrs. Sheehan cooked and cleaned, managed her household through visits of the diaper man and the milkman — Dick Venus — and her kids had the run of the neighborhood.
Countless mothers and children came to visit the medical office of her husband, the town’s first pediatrician. Dr. Sheehan’s office was at first upstairs and, among the constant flow of friends of the children dropping by, the family would sometimes find total strangers sitting on the living room couch, thinking they were in the office waiting room. The doctor’s office was later moved to an addition built on the rear of the house to accommodate a growing number of patients.
Mrs.Sheehan endured the trials of raising a large family in the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, caring not only for 11 children but a series of animals that included a horse, a pony, two dogs, countless cats and kittens, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. With the childcare she had live-in help from Nina Thompson, a much loved woman from King’s Mountain, North Carolina who brought to the household a grounded, practical sensibility.
Mrs. Sheehan led Brownie and Girl Scout troops, taught religion for St. Mary’s Church in Ridgefield, she kept a closet full of old shoes and hand-me-down ice skates, tolerated daughters with worrisome boyfriends and sons who played the piano, clarinet and the drums. 
There was a laundry chute from the house’s upper floors to the kitchen, an art studio off the kitchen, and a huge old gas stove acquired from a former restaurant that she would light with a match — once prompting a flare that burned the fish-net stockings off her legs.
Through it all she invariably had dinner on the table nightly at 6 p.m. — a raucous, required family gathering — and to this day her children keep in touch through a Facebook page called “Dinner at Six.”
A faithful Roman Catholic, she sent many of her children to Catholic schools — St. Mary’s in Ridgefield, St. Joseph School and Immaculate High School in Danbury, and Sacred Heart Greenwich — and was a lifelong contributor to Catholic causes.
Art was an avocation she began as a school girl. She loved painting — oils and acrylics, but especially watercolors — and through the years she produced an impressive series of barns and sailboats, leafy lake views and scenes of people walking on the beach. She was a member of the Ridgefield Guild of Artists for decades, studied with watercolor artist Frank Soltesz and also at Western Connecticut State University. Her art won prizes — notably a best in show at the well known Kent Art Society — and one of her paintings was accepted to be shown in the American Watercolor Society juried exhibition in New York City.
She and her husband eventually sold their house on Main Street and moved to Bryon Avenue in Ridgefield, and later to a condominium in Casagmo — just down the street from their old house. She lived the last three years at Hancock Hall in Danbury.
With her kids mostly grown she began working a series of jobs that ranged from child-sitting for families in town to operating a forklift at the recycling center.
She also took on volunteer work, including many years in the Books for the Blind program at the Ridgefield Library.
Looking back on her life, her children agreed it was striking that she had gone through it all with love and without complaint.
“She dedicated her life to us,” said her daughter, Kathleen Lill.
“And put up with a heck of a lot,” said her son, Stephen Sheehan.
“She was always there, watching over everyone,” added her son , Matthew Sheehan.
The family would like to sincerely thank the staff at Hancock Hall for the compassionate and loving care they provided for their mother.
She is survived by: Mary Clark of Lincoln, R.I.; Betsy Reid of Ridgefield, CT; Patsy Knoche of Ridgefield; James Sheehan of Manilla, Philippines; Kathleen Lill of Nassau, N.Y.; Matthew Sheehan of Kamuela, Hawaii; Teresa Tocantins of Gloucester, MA.; Connie Cozens of Ridgefield; Stephen Sheehan of Cummings, GA; and Maura Sheehan of Encinitas, CA, and their children and grandchildren.
Her husband, Dr. James Sheehan, and one daughter, Anne Sheehan Doughty, died before she did.
Donations may be made to the Residents Recreational Fund at Hancock Hall, 31 Staples Street, Danbury CT, 06810.
Due to the coronavirus no public services were planned at this time, but the family expects to celebrate her life at a later date.

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Jowdy Kane and Kane Funeral Homes