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Dorothy O'Brien

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Dorothy O'Brien Obituary
O'Brien, Dorothy Jane Heying Born to Pete and Mary Heying on May 28, 1928 in New Vienna, Iowa, a German-speaking community west of Dubuque. Called "Whitey" as a girl for her blonde hair, she grew into a gorgeous brunette with a wide, beautiful smile. Dorothy was the youngest of eight children: Kay, Anna Mae, Grace, Germaine, Jeanette, Floyd and Jim. A brother born after her died in infancy. When Dorothy was a child, Pete ran a tavern and worked as a blacksmith. They lived above the tavern; for large parties Mary and the children pushed the family furniture to the walls, covered it with sheets, and served sandwiches in the makeshift banquet room while Pete tended bar downstairs. As the Depression deepened, the tavern did not bring in enough money to put food on the table, so Mary and her daughters canned vegetables from their garden and Pete and his sons fished the Mississippi River and hunted squirrels and rabbits. As the years passed, Dorothy's sisters found work in Dubuque and convinced Pete and Mary to move there. Pete got a job as a night watchman and Dorothy, at about 12, began her work life, walking uphill to Alta Vista Avenue where she cleaned the house of the city attorney. She worked every day after school and all day Saturdays. She recalled walking home in the dark, too tired to do her homework. As a pre-teen, she lived summers with older sister Grace and her husband on their farm in Manchester, Iowa; she cared for their baby while helping feed the pigs and chickens. It was the last time she'd live a rural life, and she later claimed to never miss it. After high school Dorothy worked as a telephone operator in Dubuque. At 22 she met a Loras College student from Aurora, Michael J. O'Brien. They married in 1951 and moved to Aurora where she lived with Mike's parents until his return from the Korean conflict in 1953. In the early years of her marriage, Dorothy made many lifelong friends, two of whom, Leona Lindimier and Mary Stranckmeyer, were beloved sisters to her. By 1961 there were six children. Dorothy was a homemaker and school and church volunteer at St. Rita of Cascia, next door to the family home. Many St. Rita kids from the 1960s and 70s would fondly remember the "Uniform Lady," which was Dorothy's volunteer job for yearsmeasuring kids for next year's uniform. She a lso volunteered every Friday for decades with developmentally disabled children at the Keeler School, working alongside her friend Leona, and as a polling place worker on election days. Every Friday night for years, Mike, Dorothy and whatever children were around headed to Elmer's Doghouse for dinner, drinks and games with friends. Mike loved to show off his beautiful Dort, as he called her. "Dorothy, you're a handsome woman," he would say often, his lifelong appreciation of her never dimming. Mike also loved traveling; Dorothy, while not keen on it, never said no. Each summer they would pile the kids into the car and head to Nova Scotia, Washington D.C., Colorado, Texas, or New York for a two-week odyssey of historic sites and motel pools. When the last child left home in 1979, Dorothy and Mike began to travel more, first abroad and then in a motor home, which suited Mike's desire to tinker and travel and Dorothy's desire to be in her own space. In those carefree years, they seemed to fall in love again. They welcomed many grandbabies, all of whom, like their grandfather, were fascinated by their Grandma Dorothy's beautiful smile. In 1992, they moved to Sandwich, along with several Aurora friends, and Dorothy continued to volunteer with young children at her church. Mike died of a heart attack in 2002. In the following years, Dorothy took new joy in her children and grandchildren, letting her lifelong habits of cleaning slip. She would sit, resting at last while others worked, and watch her children cook, parent, and work, glad that they had "turned out so well" as she put it. Dorothy was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2008 and died April 10, 2013. We will miss our mom and grandma's warm, beautiful smile and smart, sassy comebacks, which even Alzheimer's could not dim until the very end. Dorothy's legacy includes her son and daughters and their spouses: Debbie (Larry) Housh of Batavia, Anne (Kevin) Boehne of Itasca, Jane (Jerry) Pigatti of Aurora, Martin (Terri) O'Brien of Aurora, Julia Brockway of Gobles, Michigan, and Laura (Kevin) Foster of Portland, Oregon; two former sons-in-law, Jeff Brockway of Kalamazoo, Michigan and David Carlsmith of Portland, Oregon; 21 grandchildren ages 11 to 44; five great grandchildren (with two more on the way); and numerous nieces and nephews. She is also survived by her sister Grace Maiers, her brother-in-law Jim O'Brien of Oswego, and sister-in-law Dorothy O'Brien Butler of Virginia Beach, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Michael and Dorothy O'Brien Scholarship Fund at Rosary High School in Aurora. Visitation will be held on Sunday, April 14, 2013 from 1 PM 5 PM at Healy Chapel, 370 Division Drive, Sugar Grove, IL 60554. A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 AM on Monday, April 15, 2013 at St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church, 750 Old Indian Trail Rd., Aurora, IL 60506.

Published in Beacon News on Apr. 12, 2013
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