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Eileen Elizabeth O'Brien

Kossuth County Advance - Staff Photo - Create Article

November 19, 1944 - January 1, 2024

Eileen Elizabeth O’Brien, daughter of Frances (Hurley) and Edmund O’Brien, was born on Nov. 19, 1944, in Whittemore and died on Jan. 1, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wis. Beloved by all who were blessed to know her, Eileen was a pillar of her family, her community, and her church. Eileen led by example, demonstrating an enormous heart, humility, and service in every aspect of her life as a faithful steward of God’s grace.

Eileen grew up on the family farm near Whittemore and attended Presentation Academy at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, also in Whittemore. She graduated from Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona where she was named Valedictorian in 1962. In 1966, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Drama, with minors in English and Secondary Education, from the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Neb. Then in 1974, she earned a Masters of Science in Education at Racine College in Milwaukee.

Following college graduation, Eileen taught English for two years at St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs where she also served as a drama sponsor. She then moved to the Milwaukee area and taught for 40 years in the Cudahy School System in Cudahy, Wis. While teaching at Cudahy, she also coached volleyball and cross country (while riding her bicycle!) and served as a scorekeeper for various sporting events. She retired from teaching in 2008.

Eileen was a parishioner at St. Francis Roman Catholic Church in Milwaukee and a long-time volunteer with Project Concern of Cudahy, a food and clothing pantry helping residents of Cudahy and St. Francis, Wis. Patrick, the Agency Director of Project Concern, described Eileen as his “right hand person.” He reminisced that she never complained, even when failing health made her work tougher to do. He described her as an example of selflessness and a pillar of the Cudahy community for decades, volunteering with Project Concern nearly every week for the last 15 years.

Eileen did not believe in idle hands. When she wasn’t teaching or volunteering with Project Concern, she was working at Summerfest, traveling, playing piano, tending to her cats, taking care of the younger generation(s), spending time with family, supporting the teacher’s association, volunteering with St. Ben’s Community Meal site, serving as a trustee for the Cudahy Family Library Endowment Fund, providing medical transportation support to individuals through the Cudahy St. Francis Interfaith Program for the Elderly, helping with the Kiwanis Club, or working at a local flower shop.

She first began volunteering at Summerfest in 1968, a year before it was officially Summerfest. And for 51 years, through 2018, you could find Eileen at Summerfest-first as a volunteer driver, later as Director of the Drivers, and eventually working security.

Eileen loved traveling and visited many sights within the United States as well as places as far away as China, Egypt and the Danube River. She shared her passion for travel with family members-often bringing traveling companions and regaling non-travelers with pictures and stories.

Her nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews remember Eileen running a tight ship at family events in Whittemore, teaching lessons about working hard, respecting one’s elders and saving money. They remember many trips to the library with Eileen (in her convertible), and Eileen sharing her love for learning, travel and adventure. She cross-stitched treasured Christmas stockings for each of the nieces and nephews, always showed up for the special milestones in their lives, and proudly shared her family members’ accomplishments and activities with her community in Milwaukee/Cudahy.

Her friends and family recount the lessons she taught them as just a part of her rich legacy: listen more than you speak; early bird gets the worm; good grammar is required; complaining is energy-draining: be grateful for what you have, personal initiative is imperative (often using the fable of ‘The Little Red Hen’ to articulate her point); what you are doing for others matters; boring people get bored-interesting people can always find something that interests them; everyone changes as they age, but learning and growing-those are choices we make; and busy hands are happy hands.

Preceded in death by mother Frances Cevera (Hurley) O’Brien (1/18/2005), father Edmund “Eddie” James O’Brien (1/20/1986), and brother Timothy Anthony O’Brien (6/2/1948).

She is survived by her siblings: Mary Michaeleen “Mickey” (O’Brien) and husband, Lester, Goldstine of Omaha, Neb.; Kevin and wife, Eileen, O’Brien of Davenport; Francine (O’Brien) and husband, Brian, Andersen of Audubon; Daniel and wife, Carol, O’Brien of Cedar Rapids; her nieces and nephews: Kat O’Brien, Michael Goldstine, Bridget O’Brien, Tim Goldstine, Betsy Smith, Daniel Andersen, Kevin O’Brien, James Andersen, Brendan O’Brien, Angela O’Brien, Tim O’Brien, and Katie O’Brien; her great-nieces and great-nephews: Chloe Andersen, Katrina Smith, Michael Andersen, Clare Andersen, Angela Andersen, Mackenzie O’Brien Putansu, Rosemary Andersen, Opal Smith, and Margaret Andersen.

The family is hosting memorial services on Saturday, April 27 with Funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 603 3rd St, Whittemore, IA 50598. Burial at 11 a.m. and a Celebration of Life in Parish Hall at 11:30 a.m.

If you’d like to make a memorial or donation, please consider the following organizations that were important in Eileen’s life:

Project Concern of Cudahy/St. Francis (Cudahy, WI)

Cudahy Family Library Endowment Fund (Cudahy, WI) select Cudahy Family Library from the list

Bishop Garrigan High School (Algona, IA)

College of Saint Mary (Omaha, NE)

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