Thursday, June 21, 2012 | 10:01 a.m.
When it came to helping young people get through life’s challenges, no task was too great for Rene O’Reilly, even as she battled her own life-threatening demons.
O’Reilly’s civic deeds in Las Vegas included providing care for ailing babies, clothing for needy children and advising young adults preparing for marriage.
A mother of four and grandmother of seven, O’Reilly did all of that and more while fighting — and winning — battles against cancer in 1985, 1995 and 1996.
Rene E. O’Reilly, the 2001 Clark County Mother of the Year for Civic Service, died June 14 following a lengthy battle against lung and neck cancer. She was 66.
Services for the Las Vegas resident of 43 years will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church, 3050 Alta Drive. Visitation will be at 4 p.m. Friday at Palm Mortuary, 1325 N. Main St. A rosary will be said at 7 p.m.
In recent months, O’Reilly participated in a groundbreaking stem cell clinical study. O’Reilly told her family to urge the public to support the Boynton Beach, Fla., clinic that is doing the research so that future cancer victims might be cured.
O’Reilly was the wife of Las Vegas attorney John O’Reilly, former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Together, they focused their philanthropy on education, from helping nonprofit youth organizations to supporting UNLV.
On the application for Mother of the Year, O’Reilly supporters wrote that she “stressed the importance of education, supporting each of her children as they earned their bachelor’s degrees.”
“Her children say they were raised with love and understanding and without judgment,” the application read. “Rene opened her doors and arms to her children’s friends who needed a bed to sleep in or someone to listen.”
O’Reilly, who served as a Eucharistic minister at Our Lady of Las Vegas, long worked alongside her husband of 45 years, assisting couples preparing for marriage through a church program called Engaged Encounter.
O’Reilly was a volunteer at University Medical Center, caring for critically ill newborns, and with Wecan, crusading against child abuse and neglect. As a member of the Assistance League, she helped collect clothing for needy children.
She also was a member of the Junior League and Legatus and was a past president of the Clark County Attorneys Wives Association.
Born Oct. 1, 1945, and raised in St. Louis, Mo., Rene came to Las Vegas in 1969, when John, an Air Force captain, was transferred to the legal office at Nellis Air Force Base. After he left the service, they made Las Vegas their permanent home.
In addition to her husband, O’Reilly is survived by two sons, Bryan O’Reilly and Timothy O’Reilly and his wife Tamara, all of Las Vegas; two daughters, Molly and her husband Patrick Mullen of Burke, Va., and Erin and her husband Scott Mason of Sharpsburg, Ga.; a sister, Patsy and her husband Bud Magee of St. Louis; a brother, Sonny Lee and his wife Regina of Chesterfield, Mo.; and seven grandchildren.
The family said donations in Rene O’Reilly’s memory can be made to Stem Cell Cancer and Regenerative Medicine Research, 10301 Hagen Ranch Road, Suite 700, Boynton Beach, FL 33437.
Ed Koch is a former Sun reporter.