Lawrence William O’Brien passed away with his family by his side on March 10, 2021. He was 93 years old. He led a truly blessed life as a husband, father, grandfather, great- grandfather, cherished brother and uncle, and loyal friend.
Larry was born on October 13, 1927 in Jersey City, NJ. He was the son of Lawrence and Madeline O’Brien and younger brother of Evelyn O’Brien Darcy, who he always credited as his childhood “protector” and the “smartest woman” he ever knew.
In 1950 Larry graduated from Villanova University, which, as the first son to earn a college degree, was a source of immense family pride. He was a member of the Villanova Track and Field team. To the end of his life even as his vision and hearing declined, Larry remained a loyal Wildcat fan, rarely missing a basketball game. Following graduation, Larry served in the Army 82nd Airborne and later as an Army Reservist. He was discharged with the rank of Major. His
career with the Travelers Insurance company spanned 40 years and there he cultivated many enduring friendships.
Throughout his life Larry embraced his Irish heritage and his Catholic faith. He was an active parishioner at St James, Rocky Hill, NJ, St Charles Borromeo, Skillman NJ and St Luke’s, Long Valley NJ. He served as a lector and was a member of the Knights of Columbus. At each parish, Larry contributed his woodworking talents creating a baptismal font, a Celtic cross, stations of the cross, processional crosses, lectern and a scaffolding display for a church bell.
Larry had boundless energy. To him, a weekend was a 48-hour window to “accomplish”: building bridges, sheds, porches, furniture, repairing sails, planting trees, making wine, building rock walls, felling and planing trees, landscaping. He was an expert at repairs; nothing was ever wasted. For years he and assorted children made Saturday morning treks to the Princeton municipal dump. There he’d scour for castoff furniture, which he then dismantled for the wood and hardware to create entirely new pieces. He kept his children busy straightening old nails to re-use and assisting him in seemingly endless gluing and clamping tasks and guiding wood as it was fed through saws. He was most content working with his hands in a woodshop which he had lovingly developed over six decades. It was here that he made corner cabinets, hope chests, china cabinets, grandfather clocks, tables, bookshelves and more. He had a tradition of making exotic wood inlaid trays for every “girl” in his family and every ‘girl” who married into the O’Brien clan. He took pride in the fact that his three sons eventually surpassed him in their woodworking skills; a legacy that especially pleased him. When he wasn’t industriously producing, he enjoyed sailing and taught his children and grandchildren how to sail. Every summer he led his exceedingly patient wife and six noisy children and cousin on fantastic camping adventures and hilarious misadventures that were rich with life lessons.
Family was everything to Larry. He was his children’s most ardent fan. For years, he loyally followed them to gymnastic meets, cycling races, baseball, basketball soccer and football games. Family dinners were opportunities to tell stories and remind us of our enduring connections as siblings. A favorite message he often imparted at meals: “Look around the table, no matter where you go or what happens to you in life, these are the people you can count on.” The message stuck.
Nothing pleased Larry more than organizing a good neighborhood party (especially St Patrick’s Day) or gathering with family around the kitchen table. He was genuinely fond of people. He had an easy way of striking up conversations and connected with others because he had a true interest in the stories of their lives. Even into his 90’s he was busy meeting people and establishing new friendships.
Larry is survived by Elinor, his wife of 68 years, his sister, Evelyn Darcy, his children: Ann Marie, Maureen and her husband Chris, Timothy and his wife Donna, Patricia and her husband Tom, John and his wife, Tammy, his niece, Mary Ellen and her husband Harry, his daughter-in-law, Leonor, 17 beloved grandchildren: Caitlin, Matthew, Michael, Timothy, Kalin, Sean, Emily, Connor, Daniel, Patrick, Brenden, Molly, Mary, Madeline, Erynn, Elizabeth, Nolan and 17 truly cherished great grandchildren : Emmett, Cooper, Elizabeth, Jake, Callen, Dermot, Samantha, Thomas, Declan, John, Amelia, Riley, Lyla, Penelope, Catherine, Olivia and Carter.
Larry’s deceased sons, Michael and Anthony greeted him as he went home to God.
A funeral Mass and celebration of Larry’s life will be held in the near future. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Larry’s memory can be made to St Luke’s Roman Catholic Church, Long Valley, NJ (https://stlukeparishlv.com/) and the Seeing Eye of Morristown NJ (https://www.seeingeye.org/donate.html).