Alicia Josephine McAtarian, nee Freely, passed away Monday, November 19th, 2018 at St. Francis Hospital in Topeka, Kansas. Born to Mark and Anne Freely in New Jersey on September 4th 1929, she was raised in Lyndhurst, New Jersey and graduated from Queen of Peace High School in nearby North Arlington. “Jo” was devoted to her father, whom she lost as a teenager to an accidental death. She earned her RN from St. Michael’s School of Nursing in Newark, New Jersey. She worked as an RN in New Jersey and also in Dublin, Ireland.
It was in Dublin that she met her beloved husband, Francis Joseph McAtarian, at a dance in 1956. The two of them were among the tallest there and saw each other from opposite sides of the room. They were married in 1957, and settled in Rutherford, New Jersey, sharing a home there until Frank’s death in 2004.
One fall Sunday in the early 1970s, not long after the Second Vatican Council, their parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rutherford announced from the pulpit that “For too long now we have been concentrating on the Divine side of Christ, so from now on we will focus on His human side. For this reason, we will no longer kneel for Communion.” This was the last straw. They knew then that the Faith of their fathers was under attack from inside the Catholic Church. From that point forward, they sought out Traditional Catholic priests thrown out of their dioceses for refusing to go along with the changes imposed by the Council. This brought them to places as far away as Powers Lake, North Dakota and St. Mary’s, Kansas.
They were members of the Rutherford Patriots, a group of like-minded conservatives organizing parades and events to counter the flag burners of the Vietnam War era.
In 1980, they heard a report on the radio about an American POW work party in Vietnam sighted by a contractor from Norway. After investigating the story, they founded “Operation: Red Ribbon” to bring awareness to the fact that 2500 American POWs were left behind in prison camps after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords ending the Vietnam War.
Working with Frank in the family business, she drew on her nursing skills, treating her customers as if they were her patients, keeping track of what was going on with them and their families both personally and professionally – to this day, they still ask about her.
Jo moved to St. Mary’s Kansas in 2007, and built a home there, close to her two sons.
Above all she was a devoted wife and mother who fought the good fight and kept the Faith. She will be sorely missed. Prayers and Masses for the repose of her soul are requested in lieu of flowers.
She is survived by her children, Deirdre (Joseph) Dunn; Kathleen (Russell) O’Neill; Mark (Lori) McAtarian; and Patrick (Christina) McAtarian; 26 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her father Mark Freely; mother Anne Freely nee Cashan; sister Mary Suhy; brother Austin Freely and her daughter Sheila Kuhl.
Requiem Mass will be at 7:00 A.M. Saturday, November 24, 2018 at Assumption Chapel in St. Marys. Interment will be in Our Lady Of Peace Cemetery. Visitation for Mrs. McAtarian will be from 2:30 until 4:30 P.M. Friday, November 23, 2018 at Piper Funeral Home. A Rosary will be recited at 5:20 P.M. Friday evening at Assumption Chapel.
Due to Mass schedule changes, a reception following the burial will be held at the home of Patrick & Christina McAtarian, 8232 Willow Creek Dr. Saint Mary’s, KS 66536
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