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Elaine C. O'Brien

1955 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Elaine C. O'Brien Obituary

State Representative Elaine C. O'Brien (D-Suffield) passed away at the Hospital at Hebrew Health Care on Friday, February 21. Surrounded by her family, from the effects of glioblastoma. She was 58 years old. Representative O'Brien was born Elaine Catherine Corrigan in Medford, Massachusetts, on August 1, 1955, and grew up in Somerville, Mass. In 1972 she became the youngest girl ever to graduate from the flight school at Beverly Airport, and for several years and made a living as a pilot and a flight instructor, eventually flying scheduled and charter flights for a commuter airline. Her career took her to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Elaine had 3 sons in quick succession, and completed her college studies at Penn State. The O'Brien family moved to Suffield, CT, where she became active in school issues, first as president of the PTA, followed by 13 years of elected service on the School Committee, where she was a major advocate for the construction of a new high school. She served on the Planning and Zoning Board, and was a past president of the Suffield Rotary Club. State Representative Elaine O'Brien was first elected to the Connecticut General Assembly in 2010 to represent the 61st Assembly District, which includes Suffield, and parts of East Granby and Windsor. As a resident of Suffield, Elaine has been involved in the local community for over 20 years, both as a member of local government and as a community volunteer. In 1991, she was elected to the Zoning and Planning Commission. In 1993 she was elected to the Board of Education and served on that Board until 2005. While on the Board of Education she was chairman of the Facilities and Transportation Committee, and a member of the Policy Committee, Personnel Committee and a representative to the CREC Council. Elaine was also a longtime Rotary member and served as a past president of the Suffield Rotary Club. Elaine was appointed Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and served on the Commerce, Transportation and Planning & Development Committees. As a member of the Commerce Committee, she joined colleagues in the formation of a "Manufacturing Caucus" to work together and across political party lines to educate everyone about all aspects of manufacturing in Connecticut and to promote manufacturing in Connecticut by improving and advancing policies that would help employers expand their businesses and hire more workers. Rep. O'Brien believed the formation of the caucus was an important development that would help manufacturers and send a message that Connecticut was ready and open to helping job creators compete and grow statewide. Elaine worked tirelessly on behalf of her towns, fought to secure important funds and to provide tax relief, and to improve the quality of life for her constituents and communities. Thanks to her effort, Rep. O'Brien welcomed a major $980,000 grant in July of 2012 for the Town of Suffield Utility Extensions in the vicinity of Bradley International Airport. The grant helped to pay for a major infrastructure project to open up industrial development, improve economic growth and stabilize property taxes. Working with fellow legislators, in August of 2012 she was able to secure a $550,000 grant in aid for the New England Air Museum for an education and conference center to serve the entire region. "Our New England Air Museum is worthy of this grant because of the great work of their staff and volunteers," Rep. O'Brien said at the time. "It's important that the Museum will not only continue to preserve and present the history of aviation, but will welcome visitors to our region of the state and enhance our quality of life." Another boost to the economy of East Granby was realized when Rep. O'Brien worked with the Governor to secure approval of a $4 million loan for Nufern, Inc. to help the company consolidate its local operations and create additional jobs in December of 2012. Elaine championed a number of proposals concerning healthcare, public safety and helping the families of the towns she represented. Among those proposals were: Rep. Elaine O'Brien proposed legislation that would allow small businesses to purchase employee health care coverage through the state employee health plan. "Our small businesses are the engines of job creation and it is right that we help them control health care costs for themselves and their employees," she said at the time. Rep. Elaine O'Brien worked to protect her towns from unreasonable lawsuits over recreational incidents. She supported a compromise proposal that provided liability protection so that towns did not have to limit or consider closing public land for recreational use. Rep. Elaine O'Brien joined the Governor at a bill signing of a bill that increased penalties for drivers who violated laws within work zones that endangered the lives and safety of workers. Elaine was a co-sponsor of the bill that became law in 2013. She began serving as Town Clerk April 1st 1998 a position she held until her death. She obtained a Masters in Public Administration from Westfield State University, studying at night. In 2010 Elaine was elected to The Connecticut legislature. She was appointed Vice-chair of the Appropriations committee and asst. Majority Whip in her first term. Re-elected in 2012, after her initial cancer diagnosis, she was particularly proud of her work on the state budget, on gun control, transportation, health care and education issues. Elaine returned to the legislature after two surgeries, and her determination was underscored by her successful completion of the Suffield Firemen' Association annual 5K walk/run in June of 2013, the day after an all-night legislative session. Although she did not return physically to the Capitol after her third surgery in November of 2013, she was encouraging visiting legislative colleagues and the Governor's office to support her education and transportation priorities as late as Wednesday. Her family was very important to her, and she to them. In 2010 she married Justin Donnelly, a Suffield attorney and friend who had coached her son's little league team. He remained by her side until her passing. In addition to her husband, Elaine leaves three sons: John and his wife Sara, attorneys in New York; Daniel, a financial planner in Springfield; and Thomas, a PhD candidate in social psychology at UMass Amherst. In Massachusetts, she also leaves her parents, John and Helen Corrigan of Somerville; a brother, Jack Corrigan and his wife Kathleen of Brookline; a brother, Jim Corrigan and his wife Nikki; a sister, Norma and her husband Randy Bohrer of Framingham, and a sister, Joanne Corrigan, of Medford. She also loved her Donnelly stepchildren: Jay, Steven, Sean, Cassandra, Zeke, Jake, and Hannah, and was a terrific aunt to her nieces and nephews, Matthew, Patrick, Megan and Sophia Corrigan, and Michael and Eric Bohrer. Visiting hours will be held at the at the Heritage Funeral Home 1240 Mountain Rd. West Suffield, on Wednesday, February 26, from 2:00 -8:00. A Memorial Service is scheduled for Saturday, March 1, 11:30 AM, at Suffield High School. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Mass. General Hospital Brain Tumor Research c/o MGH: Development Office: 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02116. Please visit Elaine's Book of memories at www.SuffieldFuneralHome.com

Published in The Hartford Courant on Feb. 23, 2014
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