Mary M. O’Brien

Cemetery Record Information

Full Name: Mary M. O'Brien
Maiden Name: FLANNERY


Birth: February 12, 1918
Death: October 29, 2009
Age: 91


James Edwin O'Brien (1923 - 2007)'brien


This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap ...

- George Bernard Shaw

And so it was for Mary O'Brien.

Mary Marcella O'Brien, age 91, of Altoona died Thursday Oct. 29, 2009, at Luther Midelfort Oakridge in Osseo.

Mary M. O'Brien was born Feb. 12, 1918, in Coltraine, Pa., to Hugh F. and Myrtle (Henry) Flannery. When Mary was a child, her family moved to the Bay View neighborhood on the south side of Milwaukee, where they owned and operated a grocery store. After graduation from high school, Mary attended Marquette University in Milwaukee and graduated as a registered nurse in 1940, Marquette's first Bachelor of Science class in nursing. She returned to Marquette University in 1944, and in 1946 graduated with a Bachelor of Science in nursing education. Mary worked as a staff nurse for many years at St. Mary's and Columbia Hospitals in Milwaukee. She did some teaching and was a battler and leader, advocating for better pay for nurses and for the recognition and right to practice more fully their nursing skills. Eventually, she and fellow nurse and good friend Donna Wolfe established their own registry for private duty nurses in the Milwaukee area. She loved providing skilled nursing care in the home and, at times, became like one of the family.

Mary was united in marriage to James E. O'Brien June 19, 1946, in Kenosha. To that union three children were born - Damian J., Maureen M. and Christopher P. O'Brien. Mary lived in the Milwaukee area until the early 1990s when she retired to Englewood, Fla. In July 2005, Mary came to make her home nearer to her family in Altoona. Mary's extraordinary "joie de vivre" was fueled by a strong faith and love of the arts. Music, opera, theater, poetry, literature, art, theology and philosophy continually sparked her interest. Sensitivity, compassion, generosity and humor helped define this vibrant woman. A passion for justice, a sharp wit and courage to take action completed her. At 90, she sat in her wheelchair and participated in peace rallies.

Mary was bitten by the travel bug early in her life, and she loved adventure, even though she admitted she had no sense of direction and could get lost in her own driveway. With her family and friends, she enjoyed trips to Ireland and to Italy, where she met Pope John Paul II; a vacation by train to Oregon and California; travels to the Montreal World's Fair and Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby; and many other trips. She was an inveterate lover of horse racing and enjoyed outings to see live racing at Canterbury Park near Shakopee, Minn., where she had a knack for picking the winners.

As we lamented her greatly restricted mobility in the final weeks, her youngest son astutely observed she could go anywhere she liked in her mind, and so she did. When she would drift off into one of those tween twixt and twain end-of-life states, she would return and amaze us with an account of having just been sitting on a mountainside, her feet dangling over the edge and enjoying the view of the valley and its trees.

Her humor was alive and well 'til the end. After the lung doctor ignored her protesting the cold stethoscope on her skin, she admonished him, "Young man, do you need my hearing aid?" Days before dying, when her caretaker informed her she was getting her a butterscotch, she replied without opening her eyes, "Skip the butter." Closer to the end of her journey, as she forced out the words "go, go, go," her eldest son asked, "Mom, are you ready to die?" To which she emphatically replied, "No! Florida!" And near the end of her mostly semi-unconscious to unconscious last day, that close to lifeless form responded with a short but hearty laugh at a loud bit of flattery from a treasured friend.

To paraphrase and twist Dylan Thomas, Mary did rage and rage against the dying of the light, but, in the final hours, did "go gentle into that good night."

Mary is survived by her sons, Damian J. O'Brien of Eau Claire and his partner, Joanne Rudrud, and Christopher P. O'Brien of Fall Creek; her grandson, Terry Weaver (Julia Loken) of Altoona; her great-granddaughter, Cierra Weaver of Altoona; a sister-in-law, Catherine Flannery of Colgate; and a sister-in-law, Ellie Flannery of Newport, Ore. She also is survived by special friends, Becky Gruen of Eau Claire, Dorothy DiFrances of Mequon and Dorothy Bradfield of New York; and many other friends, nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents; James E. O'Brien; her daughter, Maureen M. Weaver, in 2002; her brothers, Hugo F. and James Flannery; and her sister, Naomi Flannery.

Services for Mary M. O'Brien will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, at Syverson Lutheran Home, 816 Porter Ave., Eau Claire. Following the service, the family invites you to join them for a light lunch and toast to the life of Mary O'Brien.

In honor of Mary's love of nature, memorials are preferred to The Conservationists in care of adviser Crispin Pierce, UW-Eau Claire Department of Public Health Professions, Nursing Room 244.

Cremation Society of Wisconsin in Altoona is assisting the family.


St. John’s Cemetery – Byron, WI

Headstone Location:
South addition