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Your UCP: National September 11, 2003
Media & Public Awareness

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The Killilea Family

Growing up, many people read the book Karen by Marie Killilea and were profoundly moved by Karen's story, as told by her mother. UCP receives many inquiries about the Killilea family. We are pleased to share this information, which has been complied from many sources.

Marie Lyons Killilea was born June 28, 1913 in New York City to Tom and Marie Powers Lyons. Her father was a sportswriter for the New York Sun and later became co-owner of a Wall Street brokerage firm. Marie was educated at the Mount St. Vincent Academy in Riverdale. She graduated from the Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. Marie married James Killilea on July 25, 1933. Their primary residence was Larchmont, NY.

The Killileas consulted 23 top medical specialists and clinics in the United States and Canada. After finally finding out that her third child had cerebral palsy, Mrs. Killilea wrote to hundreds of parents of children with disabilities and was an active lobbyist in Albany for the rights of individuals with cerebral palsy.

Mrs. Killilea encouraged Karen to train dogs for show, breaking new ground for persons with disabilities.

She wrote a novel, Karen, which became a best seller in 1952 and has never been out of print. A sequel, With Love From Karen, was published in 1963 and it is still in print. She wrote other books as well, including Wren and Newf, published posthumously around 1992.

Karen won a Christopher Award and was one of the 30 Notable Books of 1953. Mrs. Killilea's books, totaling 4 million copies, have been published in 11 languages. She received letters from all over the world and once estimated she had answered 15,000 or more.

Marie Killilea died on October 23, 1991 at the age of 78 of respiratory ailments. At the time of her death she was survived by her husband, Jimmy (who died a few years later at the age of 80) and four children: Marie Irish, Karen Killilea, Kristin Viltz, and Rory Killilea, six grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

Karen Killilea now lives in New Rochelle, NY. She lives in an accessible apartment building, and works as a receptionist at a retreat house for priests run by Catholic monks.

Marie Killilea Irish lives in Fairfield, CT.

Rory Killilea was in the Army circa 1971. He is married and has at least one child. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Kristin Killilea Viltz was showing dogs by age 15, with some success. She now lives in Tarrytown, NY.

Gloria Killilea Lea passed away in November, 2001 in Cortlandt, NY. Her husband, Russell Lea, passed away just a few months later in February, 2002.

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