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Gwyneth O’Toole Bacon (July 4, 1929-September 24, 2018) departed this life, surrounded by loving family and the sounds of Johnny Mathis at her home in West Philadelphia where she and her loving husband Leonard Bacon had resided since 1965.
Gwyn was born in 1929 in Pittsburgh to Elsie King O’Toole and Mickey O’Toole, a travelling vaudeville performer from Wales and whose given name was Griffith Phillips. Following the vaudeville circuit, Gwyn, her parents, and older brother Mike moved to Niagara Falls, New York. Unfortunately, her father returned to Wales when Gwyn was four years old. Doing her best to care for her children during the Depression, Elsie put them in foster care. Gwyn came to love her first foster family, the Cantaras, as her own. A loyal mother aiming to stay close to her children, Elsie showed up faithfully every week to spend Saturday afternoons taking them on outings.
From this childhood, Gwyn learned to love and appreciate “family at all costs,” and as an adult, she bore four children in her first marriage. Then, divorced and remarried, she embraced the step-children and grandchildren of Leonard, her beloved husband. Together Leonard and Gwyn had three more children and opened their hearts and home as foster parents to two more children.
Feisty, brave, fierce in her convictions about loving, educating, and protecting children, Gwyn worked as a telephone operator, bookkeeper, and then, for many years, ran a home-daycare center in which she taught her little charges to love cooking, books, camping, games, and laughter. Returning to college after age 60, she became certified as a Montessori teacher and worked in this career for almost a decade, before “retiring” to assume the role of tutor for immigrant children. Fascinated by poetry, words, and theatre, Gwyn read voraciously and became a published poet. She also traveled to Italy—in her 70s!—to increase her proficiency in the Italian language and culture, which she first came to love as young woman.
Squeezed into this busy life there was travelling with Leonard, whom she met when she was a struggling single mother in West Philadelphia. Ignoring the prejudice against mixed-race couples, Gwyn and Leonard married in April 1963, blending his brown family and her white family into one extended mixture of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. With Leonard, Gwyn travelled to the Caribbean and to Europe, where they visited Wales and developed a lasting bond with the Phillips family there.
Even after Leonard died in 2001, the Bacon household was open to anyone who needed nurturing or fun. There was always food on the table, laughter, medical care, and wise counsel. Dozens of people remembered Gwyn thus: “she always seemed like a mother to me.” One long-time friend wondered, “how such a big heart could be contained in so small a body.”
Gwyn leaves behind a large, loving and bereft family and a host of friends.
Relatives and friends are invited to her funeral mass 11:00 A.M. Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 at St. Francis de Sales, 47th Street & Springfield Ave., Phila., PA 19143. A Visitation will be held 10-10:45 A.M. at the church also. Interment private. In lieu of flowers family prefers contributions be made to Project Home - HUB of Hope, Phila., PA
Project Home - HUB of Hope
1515 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19130