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Celtic Diva Proves To Be Inspiration
Catherine O'Connell Returned To The Stage One Month After A Serious Car Accident
Jim Williams Reporting
17 March 2006
(CBS2-TV) CHICAGO Chicago’s own Celtic Diva proved to be an Irish inspiration Friday night.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports, it was not just a St. Patrick’s Day celebration for Catherine O’Connell. It was a celebration of life.
O’Connell sang the hymn “I Arise Today” at Symphony Center, at 220 S. Michigan Av., and the selection certainly was appropriate. It was a triumphant St. Patrick’s Day return to the stage for the popular Chicago singer.
“I’m almost in shock that I’m here, when I think of how bad it was a month ago,” O’Connell said.
One month ago, as O’Connell was driving to her suburban home, her car was struck from behind by a dump truck, pushed into traffic, then hit by another truck.
“With a neck injury and the car flipping over, I was lucky to survive,” O’Connell said.
She suffered multiple injuries and had to endure hours of surgery.
In the last few weeks, O’Connell’s fans have sent her cars and prayers.
They remember when late Mayor Richard J. Daley crowned her queen of the St. Patrick’s Day parade 30 years ago, and they were moved by her signing in concert halls and at church.
“It’s kind of like my own little version of a wonderful life,” O’Connell said. “My mother said it’s like being at your own wake, through hard times.”
Despite her injuries, O’Connell was determined to keep her commitment to perform at Friday night’s benefit for Old St. Patrick’s Church.
She said it was not a wake, but a celebration.
16 March 2006
Catherine appeared live on WGN Radio Thursday night immediately following the completion of her final rehearsal with the choir at Old St. Patrick's...
She was also on the "Steve & Johnnie Show" at 11 PM -- along with her longtime guitarist and band mate Jimmy Moore. It was a huge appearance and the first time anyone had heard Catherine sing since the accident 35 days ago. And, she was on the air at the stroke of midnight, thus ringing in a St. Patrick's Day that she's pretty darn lucky to have survived to enjoy being around for -- let alone getting ready to sing and celebrate the anniversary of her St. Pat's Day Queen anniversary, too...
On a related note, Jimmy Moore co-wrote (with Chicagoan and longtime friend Bob Blinn) a song that is one of the most-requested songs that Steve & Johnnie every play: "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" which Chet Atkins made into a phenomenal hit record--and others in Nashville have recorded, too... Catherine sings it live occasionally -- but Jimmy rarely does. It's a very personal song... The CD album is Jimmy's release with his recording/performing partner Pat Broaders, and it is available now for sale on our website - click HERE to go to the shop.
'Celtic Diva' counting blessings: 'I can walk'
March 14, 2006
BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter
This is the time of year when Chicago's own "Celtic Diva," Catherine O'Connell, is usually center-stage in the town's top St. Patrick's Day celebrations, holding audiences captive with her rich voice.
Instead O'Connell was at home recuperating Monday as her lawyers went to court and obtained an order against a company whose truck crashed into her car and flipped it last month.
Cook County Judge Jeffrey Lawrence ordered the company to preserve all evidence and records in the crash until the law firm of Corboy and Demetrio can send in experts to inspect the truck.
O'Connell's fans have been waiting to see if she'll be well enough to perform Friday at Orchestra Hall for Siamsa na nGael, Old St. Patrick Catholic Church's fund-raising concert featuring O'Connell and some of Chicago's other top Irish-American performers.
Her doctors will make the decision Wednesday.
In the days after her accident while doctors performed surgeries on her right arm at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, she told them, "I'm just going to sing at Orchestra Hall, period," she said. "My doctors looked at me like I was crazy."
One of O'Connell's CDs is titled "I Arise Today" -- in which she sings "Wind in the Willows" and some of her other favorites -- and she's hoping that's what she can do Wednesday if she gets the all-clear to sing.
O'Connell was on her way to perform at a sold-out concert in Beverly on Feb. 10 when the crash occurred. She was stopped, waiting to make a turn from Lake Avenue onto Hunter Road in Wilmette when she noticed a truck barreling down on her in her rearview mirror, she said. It hit her car, sending her into oncoming traffic where another truck hit her and flipped her car.
Her right arm was severely damaged, and her neck sustained two fractures.
Needs rehab for both arms
"I count my blessings every day that none of the kids were in the car with me," she said. "It didn't hurt my voice at all. I can walk. I can breathe. I can think and I can sing."
But looking at pictures of the crushed car, "It's just miraculous we're sitting here talking to Catherine," said Mike Demetrio, one of her attorneys.
O'Connell is looking at a lot of rehab for both her right arm and her left, which became the "donor arm" supplying parts to mend the right one, she said.
The truck's driver was ticketed with failure to reduce speed, defective brakes and other citations. The lawsuit names Chambers Excavating Services Inc. and driver Daniel Wales. Wales declined comment.
February 28, 2006
BY MICHAEL SNEED SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Local Irish chanteuse Catherine O'Connell was discharged from St. Francis
Hospital in Evanston Monday after nearly two weeks of care following a severe
car accident. She celebrated her release and thanked her caretakers with a
Thanksgiving Prayer Service at the hospital
February 27, 2006
Father Tom Mulcrone, the Chicago Fire
Department Chaplain, will lead the thanksgiving gathering along with the St. Francis Hospital
Chaplain - and it will include some of the key surgeons who lead the charge in
Catherine's care saying some words about her condition
and care. Catherine will also say a few words - in her desire to begin to
thanks all of the St. Francis team for their role in aiding her recovery. She
had wanted to go around the hospital to do that in person at the various spots
she's been over the last 2-3 weeks, but she's been too many places to have made
that possible and practical for the hospital to continue their good care. From
the ER and OR and several difference
Intensive Care Units and nursing floors,
Catherine has been in great care. Today is a chance to say goodbye for now -
and thanks for the good graces that have come her way since entering the
hospital on Friday Feb 10th...
Cath will update the website, at last, with her own update tomorrow.
She's racing home to be able to sit down in her own how with her three boys,
Neil (16), Brendan (15) and Gavin - and her mother, Mary O'Connell and a group
of family & friends to do what she loves
to do on Monday nights - watch the TV show "24" with the boys - while they are
taking a brief break from their homework!
Thanks again for all the great wishes and
great care to date, from the first responders at the scene and the Wilmette Police and Fire professionals -- to the outstanding care at St.
Francis and all the warm wishes and prayers. "Miles to go before she sleeps" -
but so much progress...and to be thankful for in recent days...
February 23, 2006
Singer recovering after crash on Lake
BY KEN GOZE
A Winnetka woman injured in a Feb. 10 rollover crash on Lake Avenue in Wilmette is continuing her recovery this week as a police investigation looks into the causes of the accident and the mechanical condition of the dump truck that rear-ended her car.
Catherine O'Connell, 49, remained in St. Francis Hospital Tuesday, but she had been moved out of intensive care following surgery last week to reconstruct her right arm and hand, said Jim Corboy, who is dating O'Connell.
"We're at a point where the healing really finally begins," Corboy said.
O'Connell, who is known throughout the Midwest for her talents as a Celtic singer, was on her way to a concert on Chicago's South Side at the time of the crash. She was traveling eastbound on Lake Avenue waiting to turn north on Hunter Road when she was hit from behind by the truck and pushed into westbound lanes, where another truck hit her car and caused it to flip on its roof.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, O'Connell said she remembers the two impacts but did not realize how serious the situation was until she awoke in the car and began talking with another driver, Sharon Murphy, who stopped to give her encouragement before paramedics arrived.
O'Connell said her next steps are regaining use of her hands and being able to get up. She hopes to perform at a St. Patrick's Day concert for Old St. Patrick's Church at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
"I'm very glad to be here and be on the road to recovery," O'Connell said. "It hasn't affected my singing. I have to practice my breathing every day, but it's just a matter of whether I'm truly up on my feet and moving enough. My goal is to be at Orchestra Hall on March 17."
Following the crash, police impounded and inspected the truck that rear-ended O'Connell's car. The investigation included examinations of brakes and other equipment and whether the truck had undergone required safety inspections. Police and the state's attorney's office are reviewing the results this week. No charges had been made by Tuesday, said Brian King, deputy Wilmette police chief.
The truck had been hauling concrete to a site in Wilmette but did not have a load at the time of the crash.
Although speed has not been identified as a factor in the accident, police have stepped up enforcement since January after noticing speeds rise along Lake Avenue, King said.
"Saturation patrols," which allow as many as seven stops to be made at once, have led to 331 citations between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12. Of those, 165 were for speeding, a total representing about a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, King said.
A traffic study several years ago also identified the lack of protected turn lanes as a factor in higher-than-expected accident rates at several intersections, including the one at Hunter.
Plans to add separate turn lanes were rejected because they would require widening the road, but a planned resurfacing project in April will convert one of the westbound lanes to a turn lane serving both directions from Hunter to Green Bay Road.
February 17, 2006
BY MICHAEL SNEED SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Irish singer extraordinaire Catherine O'Connell, who was injured in a traffic accident last week, got a perk-up when Irish singer Ronan (The Three Tenors) Tynan phoned her at St. Francis Hospital. Get well, kiddo.
From The Willmette Life:
Celtic singer recuperating after accident
By Ken Goze
A Winnetka woman known
throughout the Midwest for her talents as a Celtic singer remained hospitalized
and faced additional surgery Tuesday after a car crash in Wilmette Friday
Police said Catherine O'Connell, 49, was traveling eastbound on Lake Avenue and waiting to turn north on Hunter Road when she was hit from behind by a dump
truck minutes before 12:30 p.m. Friday. The force of that collision pushed her
car into westbound lanes, where it was hit by another truck and flipped onto its
roof. O'Connell was transported to St. Francis Hospital.
The road was closed for several hours as the department's major accident unit
worked to reconstruct the crash.
No charges had been filed by the end of the day Monday, but police said the
investigation was ongoing and included an inspection of the truck for potential
James Corboy, a friend of O'Connell, said she underwent a successful surgery
over the weekend but is scheduled to spend much of Tuesday in more surgery to
repair extensive injuries to her right arm. She also suffered several broken
bones in the accident.
"We are lucky she is alive, even with a tough road ahead," Corboy said
Monday. "We are so grateful for the job the Wilmette fire and police folks did
in literally saving Catherine's life."
As a singer of traditional Irish music, O'Connell appeared regularly at Old
St. Patrick's Church in Chicago and at funerals and weddings throughout the
suburbs. Corboy said she was named St. Patrick's Day Queen by the late Richard
J. Daley in 1976 and has sung at a number of Daley family gatherings and Chicago
events over the years.
She sang with house groups in a number of Irish pubs in the city but shifted
her attention to church and private functions, recordings and concerts in recent
At the time of Friday's accident, O'Connell was on her way to a sold-out
concert at World Folk Music Company, on Chicago's South Side. O'Connell is also
scheduled to be one of the key solo singers at the Siamsa na nGael Concert at
Orchestra Hall March 17.
She recently sang at a retirement party for the Rev. Robert Ferrigan, pastor
of Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka.
"She's just a wonderful performer with a gorgeous voice," said Mike McNulty,
a deacon at the church. "She's got a great sense of humor and she's very easy to
"I hope the good Lord is healing her rapidly."
February 12, 2006
BY MICHAEL SNEED SUN-TIMES
Sneedlings . . .
Get-well wishes to stellar local Irish singer Catherine O'Connell, who
was involved in an auto accident Friday. She is convalescing at St. Francis
Hospital in Evanston.
From The Chicago Tribune:
Popular Celtic singer hurt in Wilmette crash
By Brendan McCarthy
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 12, 2006
A well-known local Celtic singer was recovering in the hospital this weekend after suffering serious injuries in a car crash in Wilmette.
Catherine O'Connell, 49, of Winnetka, was stopped in her car about 12:30 p.m. Friday eastbound on Lake Avenue at Hunter Road when she was hit from behind by a dump truck, friends and police officials said.
The force of the impact pushed her car into the path of a truck heading west on Lake, Wilmette police said in a news release.
Police said O'Connell's car rolled several times before stopping. She was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.
Her boyfriend, James Corboy, said Saturday that O'Connell underwent successful surgery and was in intensive care.
"Her right arm is real bad and she's got a lot of broken bones in her upper body and shoulder area," he said. "We hope she'll be out of intensive care by early next week."
O'Connell, the mother of three boys, regularly sings at Old St. Patrick's Church, and has performed for President Bush, Mayor Richard Daley and in many St. Patrick's Day parades. She has sung at thousands of weddings and funerals in Chicago.
"She's got this great gift of singing," Corboy said. "Everywhere we go, there's someone who says, `Hey, you sang at my friend's wedding or my dad's funeral.'"
At the time of the crash, O'Connell was heading to her sold-out concert at World Folk Music Co. on the South Side. Her Friday and Saturday night concerts were canceled.
Catherine is already busy at work on a Christmas CD. Check back for details as they develop.