HARLEM - Josephine O'Leary, 92, longtime educator, of Harlem died Friday, Oct. 21, 2005, in Billings at the home of her nephew and niece, Joe and Karen Dooley.
A funeral Mass will be Friday at 11 a.m. in St. Thomas Catholic Church with burial following in Harlem Cemetery. Rosary will be recited on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in St. Thomas Catholic Church.
She was born July 25, 1913, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Joseph and Julia (Wolf) Mohar. Her parents, lured by “free land,” came to Montana in 1914 and homesteaded in the area known as Cherry Patch.
Josephine graduated from Harlem High School in 1930, sharing valedictorian honors with Patty Walker. Patty wrote the valedictory address and Jo delivered it. Following high school, Jo went off to Montana State Normal College in Dillon to obtain her two-year teaching certificate. Through the years she continued her education by extension courses, correspondence courses, and summer sessions that put her on campuses or in contact with the University of Montana, Northern Montana College, and back to Western Montana College. Her efforts culminated in 1956, when she received her bachelor's degree from Western Montana College, with a major in English and minors in social studies and physical education.
Jo spent the first 24 years of her teaching career in Blaine County Rural, Hogeland, Harlem, Chinook and Frazer schools. She taught in Chinook until 1957.
She married Steve O'Leary in 1957 and moved back to Harlem, where Steve was owner-operator of Chevron Service Station and bulk plant. After a 13-year absence from the classroom, she continued her educational career in Hays then went back to Harlem elementary to teach library science and be an assistant librarian. It was a privilege for her to be asked by her former sixth-grade class to speak at the 1957 Harlem High School commencement, the first former student and teacher to be asked to do so. She was also president of the local Montana Education Association, member of State Field Services Committee M.E.A., and co-authored an article for the National Elementary Principal's journal. She retired from education in 1980.
Jo was an active member of the Harlem Senior Citizens Center since assisting in its organization in 1973 and served as bookkeeper, director, secretary and president. She was highly honored and humbled by being selected as Area III's Senior Citizen of the Year in 1989. She advocated senior issues through the Governor's Conference on Aging and represented Blaine County as it Legacy Legislator. When Harlem needed paved streets, Jo served as co-chair of the Harlem Community Development Program. When she felt a calling from her church, Jo responded by giving her time and talent through the altar society and service as a lay minister. She was also a member of the Lady Jacoba Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order and completed extensive church studies through the Tempest Program.
Jo was preceded in death by her parents, Joseph and Julia (Wolf) Mohar; brothers, Frank, Joseph, John Lewis, Victor and William (Bill); and sisters, Mary Bray Anna Bramsman and Julia Graham.
Survivors include her numerous nieces and nephews.
Memorials may be sent to the church or one's choice.
Arrangements are by Edwards Funeral Home of Chinook.