Amor Ilao McGuinness and her husband Tom.

Civic leader and noted Fil-Am soprano Amor Ilao McGuinness passed away peacefully at her Boonton Township, N.J. home on Aug. 27, 2011, surrounded by her loving husband, children and close friends.

She survived breast and then bone cancer for over 17 years. She was 76.

Born in Luisiana, Laguna, Philippines, McGuinness was raised during World War II.

After finishing nursing at the University of the Philippines and working briefly in the Philippines, McGuinness moved to the United States in 1957 and attended Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Nursing.

She worked at St. Peter’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital, both in New York City, and St. Mary’s Hospital in Orange, N.J.

Married to Tom McGuinness, they lived in Orange and Caldwell, N.J., and for the past 45 years, Boonton Township, N.J.

She owned and operated two china and gift stores in Boonton — The Old Firehouse and The Rainbow Shop — during the 70s and 80s.

She also worked as a realtor for Irv White, Weichert Realtors and Hubler Realty for 30 years.

Together with her husband, McGuinness owned and managed South Terrace Manor, a residential health care facility in Boonton that cared for chronically ill and elderly women, for 20 years.

Besides her four grandchildren, her other passion was music.

She was a celebrated soprano who graced numerous Philippine-American events and functions in the United States, Canada, Jordan, Havana and Manila.

She started singing publicly at age six and became known for her renditions of classical kundimans (Filipino love songs) and her popular bird song medleys.

She studied voice with several professional coaches over the years, attended Julliard, and performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Her credits included roles in community productions of “South Pacific,” “The King and I” and the Off-Broadway “Song of Joseph.”

She also sang for several dignitaries, including Philippine Presidents Benigno Aquino III and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and President George Bush, Sr.

Dedicated to promoting and celebrating the Filipino cultural traditions, she founded the Philippine Dance Troup and the University of the Philippines Alumni and Friends Rondalla, the latter a Filipino string ensemble that has performed in various places worldwide.

McGuinness and her husband celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and renewed their vows last June with family and friends at Lake Mohawk Country Club in Sparta.

They met in May 1960 at the World Trade Show at the New York Coliseum.

Through all her successes in music and business, she never forgot her disadvantaged kababayans in the Philippines by working tirelessly to raise money for poor children, hospitals in need, nurses and the elderly.

She has received many accolades for her artistic and her humanitarian efforts, including two Philippine Presidential Awards from Presidents Corazon Aquino and Arroyo.

Aside from her husband, McGuinness is survived by her daughter Mary Louise and husband Jack Beierlel daughter Amor Taylor; son Richard and wife Katherine; and her beloved grandchildren Santino, Maddigan, Quincey and Brett.

She is also survived by her brothers Romeo and Rito Ilao, and sister Carmen Miley.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the University of the Philippines Alumni and Friends Rondalla (UPA&FR), a Filipino string ensemble based in New Jersey that performs regularly in cultural heritage festivals and government social activities.

It is a non-profit 501-C 3 organization.

Donations to UPA&FR should be mailed c/o Diane Valencia, 3 Rachel Terrace, Piscataway, NJ 08854.

The McGuinness family will sit Shiva from Friday (Sept. 2) through Sunday (Sept. 4), from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

All are welcome to visit at the McGuinness residence during this time.

Viewings and funeral masses were held early this week, arranged by the Mackey Funeral Home in Boonton.