Helen Gray Henson O'Brien, 90, formerly of Erie, passed away at Hospice of Charleston on Thursday, January 24, in Charleston, S.C. She is survived by her devoted husband Edward Russell O'Brien of Charleston, three children; Jack O'Brien (Pamela) of Mt. Lebanon, Pa., Susan Purcell (Richard) of New Wilmington, Pa., and Jane Marti (Phillip) of Port Royal, S.C. In addition, there are five grandchildren; Joshua Else (Anna) of Cockeysville, Md., Michael O'Brien (Maureen) of Moon, Twp, Pa., Molly Harrison (Mickey) of Los Angeles, Calif., Tamla O'Brien of St. Croix, USVI, and Heather Plis (Corey) of Charleston, S.C. There are six great-grandchildren; Brie Coyle, Margaret Else, Gavin Else, Alexander O'Brien, Haley Plis and Gavin Plis. Mrs. O'Brien was born in Zwolle, Louisiana on February 28, 1922 and raised in Converse, La. Her mother died at an early age and she was raised by her older sisters, Leona and Thelma. Mrs. O'Brien earned a degree in education in the late 1930s from Natchitoches State Teachers College, now Northwestern State University of Louisiana. Mrs. O'Brien met her future husband when he went on leave from the Army Air Corps to meet the woman in a picture he had been given, and with whom he had begun to correspond. The future Mrs. O'Brien would often recall years later that she had assured him, "I'm never going to marry any Yankee." The couple was wed in Erie on June 29, 1946. Mrs. O'Brien was, for many years, a kindergarten teacher at Joanna Connell School. In her later years she cheerfully noted occasionally meeting the children of former students. Mrs. O'Brien was an active gardener and created memorable gardens over the years at her homes in Glenwood Hills, Millcreek and in Maggie Valley, N.C. She traveled, pursued the family's genealogy and enjoyed adventures with her family. She once discovered a raw 40-carat sapphire at a mineral mine in North Carolina and had the stone crafted into a pendant and earrings. She was a member of First Presbyterian Church, Eastern Star and The National Audubon Society. Funeral services were held recently in Charleston, S.C. and burial followed a private service at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Millcreek. The Francis V. Kloecker Funeral Home, Inc. is in charge of local arrangements. www.kloeckerfuneralhome.com
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Published in the Erie Times-News on Feb. 10, 2013