CORNER BROOK — Working side by side with his mother, Jason O’Reilly said he learned so much that it’s hard to put it all in words.
“She taught me everything about the car business and how it all works," he said of his mother Rosemary O’Reilly.
Ms. O’Reilly, owner and president of City Motors Ltd., died on Tuesday at the age of 69 after a 10-month battle with cancer.
“Not many people get to work side by side with their parents and learn so much from them,” said O’Reilly. “So I was very lucky to be able to do that. I’ll miss working with her every day, and getting to see her and carry on the business with her.”
Ms. O’Reilly started working on the switchboard at the car dealership just one year out of high school in the 1960s. Over the years she worked her way up and in the early ’90s became dealer principle of the then Lundrigans-owned business. That’s the same position currently held by her son.
After the Lundrigan group went bankrupt, Ms. O’Reilly was able to put together a group of people to purchase the dealership.
O’Reilly said his mother was fully backed by Chrysler on that because "she knew what she was doing.”
Later she would buy out those partners and the business became a solely family-owned one.
Jason O’Reilly said it’s not surprising that she would take that leap.
“It’s what she knew all her life. Her whole business career was based around the car business,” he said.
“You don’t get many people who start out on a switchboard somewhere, and then end up working their way through that business, and ending up owning it and then being very successful.”
Ms. O’Reilly’s takeover of the dealership also came as no surprise to longtime friend, Bill Kennedy.
“She had such a mind for business, a mind for doing things,” said Kennedy. “She had an ability. I guess it’s the female mind, very insightful. She could see into things. She could understand things better.”
Kennedy said he and Ms. O’Reilly go back more than 50 years. He once worked for Lundrigans and met her through the dealership.
Over the years he said she became a trusted and close friend.
“We had an unusually direct and communicative relationship,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also served with Ms. O’Reilly on the board of the Humber Community Business Development Corporation.
He said she was a great community supporter, but in a quiet way, which was true to her private nature.
She was also chair of the Western Regional Hospital Foundation in the early 2000s. Current chair Bernd Staeben called her an “original mover and shaker” for the foundation.
“That was the time when we really needed and appreciated the efforts of the foundation,” he said, “because that was probably the only little bit of new equipment that we managed to get for health care in those days.”
He can also attest for the good she did from behind the scenes.
Even though he promised her he’d never tell, Staeben said a couple of years ago he was in need of a vehicle for the Rotary Music Festival and Ms. O’Reilly offered one up.
“That’s the way she was; she didn’t want credit.”
Jason O’Reilly said his mother always shied away from taking credit for anything she did and noted she was also a huge supporter of Immaculate Heart of Mary School.
“It’s a special person who doesn’t want any notoriety for her generosity.”
In keeping with her wishes and private nature, Ms. O’Reilly’s family held a private service for her on Thursday.