Josephine Daly was born on October 22, 1937 in Kilkenny, Ireland to Joseph Daly and May Lawlor. She was the third of 3 sisters, Peggy, Marie and Frankie. Her mother died when she was a teen of breast cancer. Her father decided to send his 4 girls to college instead of a dowry. She went to University College Dublin where she met her best friend Carmel on the first day of school and started a relationship that blossomed into a lifelong friendship. In her class there were 2 female students, Jojo and Rosalie and 2 male chemistry PhD students. The four were married. Jo married her fellow chemistry Ph.D. student, George O'Doherty. She had her first daughter, Mary, in Ireland, then moved to London where she had her second daughter, Una. In London in the mid 1960 she had long hair and wore miniskirts. The American need for scientists moved her from London to Greenfield, Indiana home of a pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly. Before she came to the US, she stopped back in Kilkenny to have baby George.
Jojo said that when she learned she was moving to Indiana all she knew about it was that the controversial Kinsey report came from Indiana, a report on human sexuality. Greenfield Indiana was not quite ready for the mother of three children with long hair and bell-bottoms. Greenfield was a big adjustment from London, but the birth of daughter Nuala and baby Joe kept her hands full. Once Joe was a little older, she went to Indiana University to brush her chemistry skills and she began her research. She spend about 10 years doing research at Indiana University in Indianapolis, IUPUI, but in that short time she published numerous papers, including in the prestigious Science Magazine, on how Calcium moved across cell walls. While academic life of publish or perish is difficult, she was always working on the next experiment and thinking about the next paper. Her daughter Mary, used to type up draft after draft of scientific papers.
A job opportunity in a pharmaceutical company brought her and 4 of the 5 kids to upstate, Schenectady, NY. New York was a much better fit for Jojo than the conservative Midwest, but soon after she moved her health problems began. Looking back it is easy to understand, she had the BRACA gene for cancer, but in the 1980s there was no gene sequence. In 1986 she was diagnosed with stage 4 (terminal) ovarian cancer. She sold her home and made arrangements to die. She agreed to join a scientific study ssisters came to say goodbye and she stopped chemotherapy, but as spring arrived, she did not die. Her hair grew in black and curly. With a new lease on life, she decided to move to NYC and to try to be a teacher. The NYC high schools in the late 1980s were a shock to her, but as she always believed that if you just worked a little harder, it would all work out. In 1996, the cancer came back, this time in the breast, but treatments was better and chemo and radiation seemed easy the second time. She went back to work and became a lab specialist and designed labs for high schools. As only she could do, everything had to be scientifically correct. She enjoyed designing and planning the labs. She believed every child should learn hands on science. She started working on political campaigns. She was a huge Obama supporter and tireless campaigner. She moved to Jackson Heights and had a second bedroom filled with toys for her grandchildren to visit, first Liam and Nuala and then Patrick, Peter, Lila, Maya, Taylon and Orhan. She would go out to movies with her first grandson Joe W. She loved when people said baby Orhan looked like her. She had no thoughts of retiring until Colon cancer hit. Still she continued working until she was 74. The colon cancer came with complications. There were good days and bad. There was a summer when she could not eat or drink. She refused any nurse and kept fighting with her doctors. Still she pick up tai chi which she did every morning at 7 AM. She would invite the grand kids to her apartment, feed them all chicken wings and chips and let them make a grand ruckus and then send the noisy lot out to the garden. Then there was cancer on the liver, but there was a new liver pump to try. That gave her a summer trip to Turkey with her son and his family. A year ago there was brain cancer. She had brain surgery #1 and brain surgery #2. She had radiation, she had chemo and the she had enough. She wanted to see friends and family in Ireland. She wanted her grandchildren to know more about Ireland, so she held out. Two weeks ago when she went to Ireland, with her oxygen and her wheel chair.
But in true Jojo style once she had done what she had to do, she said get me back to NYC to die and that is exactly what she did.