Virginia Brown O’Brien defined motherhood, and in an age today when worldly accomplishment is all too often the mark of achievement, her selfless devotion to her late husband, Francis Xavier O’Brien, and her ten children are testimony to a higher standard.
She died last Wednesday at Epoch Senior Health Care of Brewster. She was 84, and had lived in retirement in North Eastham for many years after raising her family in Westchester County, New York.
A woman of considerable artistic talent and achievement as a schoolteacher, she forever put her family first—whether it was a sacrifice of her time, her resources or her considerable emotion. She was dutiful beyond all measure, and in an era when we honor the Greatest Generation, as we should, Virginia O’Brien stands out among the Greatest Generation of women of her day—mothers who helped shape and define their spouses and children in diverse ways, both in what they were in life and are today in our memories.
Surviving O’Brien family members—her children and a score of grandchildren—will live in her shadow, a wide swath of grace that comforts extended family households from Cape Cod to California.
Born in New York City in 1923, Mrs. O’Brien was the daughter of the late George and Loretta Brown, and was the sister of the late Donald Brown and Gertrude Brown. She grew up in Manhattan on the West Side where she played hopscotch on the sidewalks and attended a private French convent school. She was graduated from the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y., and worked briefly at Bankers Trust in New York City.
Raising her family in Rye, N.Y., she was an active parishioner at Resurrection Church in Rye and was active in church and civic activities. For almost 20 years, she taught second grade at the parochial Most Holy Trinity in Mamaroneck. N.Y. and St. Gregory the Great in nearby Harrison.
In retirement on Cape Cod, she was a member of St. Joan of Arc parish in Orleans and volunteered at the church’s thrift shop.
Mrs. O’Brien is survived by eight children: Maureen Maresca of Mt. Kisco, NY; Greg O’Brien of Brewster, MA; Lauren Anderson of Bradford, MA; Justine O’Brien-Holmes of Loveland, OH; Paul O’Brien of Pleasanton, CA; Bernadette Thompson of South Burlington, VT; Tim O’Brien of Guilford, CT; and Andy O’Brien of Rye, NY; and 21 grandchildren. Two of her sons, Gerard and Martin O’Brien predeceased her at an early age.
A wake will be held 6 pm to 8 pm Wednesday at the Nickerson Funeral Home in Orleans. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 11 am Thursday at Our Lady of the Cape on Stony Brook Road in Brewster.
In lieu of flowers, pleases send donations in memory of Mrs. O’Brien to the VNA at www.vnacapecod.org and click donations, or mail a contribution to Lower Cape Outreach Council, P.O. 665, Orleans, Ma. 02653.