As Frank’s illness progressed, he wasn’t able to work as much, so Helen took a job at Commonwealth Shoe Factory in Whitman to provide for the family. She worked full-time at this factory for 5 years, first taking the bus to work, and then riding in with acquaintances from the factory (the O’Connell family did have a car, but Helen was never interested in driving).
The top portion of the shoe would come down the assembly line on a rack according to size. The edges of the shoe were already stitched, and Helen’s job was to add the glue so the sole could be attached.
Soon though, Commonwealth began to import the upper part of the shoe from Spain and less work needed to be done in the factory. There was talk between the workers who said that more work was available at E.T. Wright, another shoe company located in Rockland. Helen went to work there, and rode in with a co-worker named Pete Green, a nice Polish man. She worked here for many years, until 1981.
Meanwhile, Frank’s health was deteriorating. Helen remembers that while making him breakfast one morning, he looked up at her and tried to say something with garbled speech. He suffered from a stroke and was admitted to the hospital.
After this, one thing after another went wrong with his health. He began having a lot of trouble with his leg, the one that was shot at during the war, and they performed a bypass where they replaced an artery in the bad leg with one from his good leg. Shortly after, his good leg started to fail, as did the rest of his body. He passed away in the intensive care unit of the West Roxbury VA Hospital on August 22, 1981, 25 years to the date that his mother Isabelle had died.