Joseph A. O'Brien, 61, a Scranton native who lived for many years in New York City and whose lifelong passion was the theater, died Wednesday at the Hospice Community Care Center in Dunmore following a long illness. He suffered from familial amyloidosis, a rare genetic disorder.
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A former assistant director of Camp St. Andrew in Tunkhannock and a former English teacher at Seton Catholic High School in Pittson and the Jesuit-run Loyola grade school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Mr. O'Brien was employed in the business department of the New York office of BBH, an international advertising agency.
He was also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the Actors Equity Association, and a former member of the Six Figures Acting Company, which produced original plays by nationally known playwrights in its own theatrical space on the city's Upper West Side. Before that, he studied with the National Shakespeare Company and was offered a repertory acting position on its national tour; he turned down the offer in order to remain in Manhattan. In addition, Mr. O'Brien formerly worked in a repertory company specializing in school productions in the New York region.
He also spent many summers acting in theatrical productions throughout the Northeast and in the Midwest, and enjoyed auditioning and acting in productions in New York City, including the New York Fringe Festival.
He had a featured role in an episode of "Sex and the City" and he enjoyed noting that, as the character Father Andrew, he was the only priest to appear in the long-running television series about the love-lives of four single women in New York.
He was born March 18, 1952, and attended St. Patrick and St. Clare grade schools and Scranton Preparatory School. In the fall after he was graduated from Prep, he entered Pius X Diocesan Seminary and pursued his undergraduate degree at the University of Scranton as a seminarian. He returned to secular life in his last semester of college, earned his bachelor's degree in English and in the following fall, he took a job teaching at Seton Catholic. He worked at Camp St. Andrew during his summers as a seminarian.
After teaching at Seton Catholic, Mr. O'Brien earned his master's degree in English at the University of Notre Dame, where he became involved in the school's theatrical productions.
He moved to the National Shakespeare Company from Notre Dame and then taught at Loyola before moving to BBH.
He is survived by three sisters, Ellen, Joan Volz and Maureen McAliney, all of Scranton; three brothers, Robert A. of Huntington, N.Y.; Dennis of Ellicott City, Md.; and Kevin of Washington, D.C.; 16 nieces and nephews; and seven grandnieces and nephews.
He was also preceded in death by a sister, Maryanne Donohue of Scranton; and a beloved niece, Maeve McAliney of Scranton.
Calling hours will be Sunday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Eugene Cusick Funeral Home, 217 Jefferson Ave., Scranton. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Paul's Church. Those attending the Mass are asked to proceed directly to the church.
Published in Scranton Times on Apr. 5, 2013