'Didn't Believe in Shortcuts'
Pity anyone who fell asleep at one of Michael O'Brien's parties. A drowsy offender might wake up with a mascara mustache, hands full of shaving cream or, as his brother-in-law Don once discovered, shaved legs.
"He could always make me laugh," said his wife, Rachel. She encountered his sense of humor on the first Christmas she visited his family's house. She had a headache. He said all he had were chewable aspirin. She chewed. He laughed. She gagged.
Mr. O'Brien's sense of humor balanced his practical side. In 1990, he and a few associates successfully started their own municipal bond trading company. In 2000, they sold it to Cantor Fitzgerald and Mr. O'Brien became vice president for Cantor's municipal bond desk.
Mr. O'Brien, 42, was a stickler for detail; he would research cameras for weeks before buying one and then wouldn't snap a single shot until he had read the entire manual. "Anything he did he took from start to finish," said Craig Calafiore, a close friend. "Mike didn't believe in shortcuts."
That was especially so when it came to being a father to his three children. He coached soccer and took the whole family camping and rafting every summer. Then his wife would stay home and he took the children camping on his own. "The look in his eyes when he saw his children summed up everything," said his sister Bridget. "He raised the bar on fatherhood."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 10, 2002.
Michael O'Brien, 42, trader, family man
The 104th floor of the North Tower was filling with smoke, but Michael O'Brien of Cedar Knolls stopped to call his wife, Rachel, to tell her the news of the attack on the World Trade Center.
He told her he was wearing a gas mask and that they were evacuating. That was the last time Rachel O'Brien spoke to her husband, a senior vice president of the municipal bond desk for Cantor Fitzgerald Securities.
"Maybe he defied the odds and got downstairs; we don't know," Rachel O'Brien said yesterday.
Mr. O'Brien, 42, was born in Utica, N.Y. He loved the outdoors, and spent many weekends and summers on camping trips. At other times he coached soccer and baseball in Hanover Township.
"He was a great father and a great friend," said his wife of 18 years. "He always made people laugh."
Mr. O'Brien graduated from New Hartford (N.Y.) High School in 1977. He earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego in 1981 and a master's in business administration from Buffalo University in 1983.
Before joining Cantor Fitzgerald, Mr. O'Brien was a bond trader for Clifford and Drake and later a partner in Municipal Partners Inc. from 1991 to 2000.
In addition to his wife, Mr. O'Brien is survived by two sons, Derek and Kevin; a daughter, Sarah; his parents, Robert and Mary Lou O'Brien of New Hartford, N.Y.; two brothers, Dennis of Buffalo, N.Y., and Andrew of North Kingstown, R.I.; and two sisters, Katie of Shrub Oak, N.Y., and Bridget of Nashua, N.H.
A celebration of his life will be held at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church, Ridgedale Avenue, Cedar Knolls. Arrangements were made by Bradley-Braviak Funeral Home in Whippany.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the Mike O'Brien Memorial Fund, c/o Calafiore, 8 Old Farm Road, Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927.
Profile by Judith Lucas published in THE STAR-LEDGER.