Odette Marie-Thérèse Conley (née de Mare) passed from this life on March 22, 2021 just as she lived, with tremendous grace and dignity, and with a deep focus on those she loved. She fought a fierce and courageous battle against cancer for five years and despite the grueling treatment, lived life to the fullest until the very end.
Odette was born in Paris, France on November 25, 1937 to Jehan and Yvonne de Mare, and was the third youngest of seven children. She was a child of World War II. As a six-year old, her family was forced to leave their summer home in Normandy and live on neighboring farms when the German army occupied their property due to its vantage point. Her father and oldest brother were in Paris and separated from the rest of the family during the occupation. She recounted significant hardship during those years, but also much fun and adventure. She always seemed to find joy in every situation.
As a young adult, Odette translated her deep caring for people into a nursing degree. She intended to further that degree with advanced studies in pediatric nursing, but life had different plans. In 1962, on a golf course outside Paris, she met a dashing American and three months later, they were married. Odette and William “Bill” Patrick Conley, who predeceased her, shared over 50 wonderful years together. She often told her five children how supportive their father was, and how free she was to explore and grow. They were a beautiful and inspirational couple.
Bill and Odette moved to the United States in 1969 and settled in New Canaan, CT. They transferred to Belgium in 1980 and then returned to the United States in 1982, first to Mason’s Island in Mystic, CT, then to the Borough of Stonington, CT where Mom lived in one of her favorite homes, then to Niantic and finally to Simsbury, CT where Odette made many close friends and truly found peace and happiness in her later years. In Simsbury, she served on the Auxiliary and enjoyed working at the Second Chance Shop.
While she spent the majority of her married life raising her family, Odette put her nursing skills to use when her youngest child entered school. She first worked as an RN at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, then at Gold Star Pediatrics, and finally at Westone Pediatrics. She was passionate about her work and formed close bonds with her colleagues. Once retired, she devoted herself to helping anyone in need and held a special place in her heart for children and the elderly.
Odette was a devoted animal lover. She especially loved the strays that no one else wanted. Despite her large family, there were always more animals than people surrounding her. At any given time, cats, dogs, fish, and turtles were in the house. She was renowned for having the best fed squirrels in the neighborhood and was known to buy Ring Dings and donuts for the many generations of raccoons who loved her. She was also devoted to her ducks in the cove behind her home on Mason’s Island and was occasionally seen chasing away any duck hunters unlucky enough to enter the cove while waving a very old, nonfunctioning buffalo rifle in the air.
Odette had a fine eye for antiques and for many years collected antique dolls and dollhouses. She was also a very talented crafter. She made beautiful miniature teddy bears, shell art, and while undergoing chemotherapy knitted scarfs for homeless shelters. Her home was always filled with lovely music, with the scents of her amazing culinary punctuated by stories and laughter. She made everything around her more beautiful.
Bill and Odette liked to joke that they indeed “populated their corner of the earth” as they welcomed five children, Nancy (Nathan) Cowser, Bill (Tracy), Frank (Jen), Jerry (Mary Beth) and Chris (Amanda). Nothing gave Odette greater joy than her eleven grandchildren, Donovan (Nancy and Nate); Lindsay, Matthew, Sophie and Emma (Frank and Jen); Devin, Christian and Patrick (Jerry and Mary Beth); and Abigail, Penelope and Eliza (Chris and Amanda). She never missed an opportunity to remind her children that she preferred even numbers and fervently hoped for a twelfth grandchild. Odette also leaves behind to cherish her memory her surviving siblings in France, Monique de Thieulloy, Jacques de Mare, Marie-Thérèse Trintignac, and Albéric de Mare, along with dozens of beloved nieces, nephews and their children. In America, too, there are dozens of relatives and friends whom she loved and cherished, to include her brother-in-law Joseph Conley and nephew Mike Zisek who were especially close to Odette.
After the passing of her husband, Odette had the great fortune of meeting a wonderful man whom the family loves deeply, Joe Bronzino. They were devoted friends until the end of Odette’s life. Odette’s children are grateful for the companionship and love that they shared.
Odette’s family wishes to thank and recognize the heroic work of Dr. Peter Schauer and his incredibly talented and compassionate team at the Hartford Healthcare Oncology Center. Odette received the very best care possible, and her family will forever be grateful. The staff on the 10th floor of the Bliss Wing at Hartford Hospital where Odette spent her final days, especially Nurse Jackie and Nurse Jean, will never be forgotten. They would also like to thank Father Matera, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Simsbury, CT, where Odette was a longtime communicant. Odette took great comfort in her faith.
Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date, once we are free to congregate, hug and celebrate Odette with joy.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that donations in Odette’s name be made to the Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute. Donation instructions can be found at