Stephen Dakin O'Leary
1959 - 2020
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Stephen Dakin O'Leary July 15, 1959 - Jan. 24, 2020 With great sorrow, his family announces the passing of their beloved son, brother, and father, Stephen Dakin O'Leary, who died peacefully in his home in San Rafael, California at the age of 60 on Friday, January 24, 2020. Stephen was an artist, scholar, teacher, spiritual seeker, singer, poet, gardener, activist, chef, collector of curiosities, and a quirky, devoted father. Stephen was the fourth child of Paul Arthur O'Leary and Helen Forve O'Leary, who raised their family in San Francisco. He attended Star of the Sea Elementary School, Stuart Hall, and the Urban School, where he first learned the art of stained-glass window making. Stephen majored in the Comparative Study of Religion at Harvard, then earned his PhD in Communications at Northwestern. He joined the faculty of the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California in 1989, inspiring hearts and minds as a professor for over twenty years. While in Chicago, Stephen discovered Sacred Harp, or shape note music, and developed a fierce, lifelong love for it. He met his wife Mary Rose in the tenor section of the Chicago Sacred Harp Singers. Together, they helped establish the annual All-California Sacred Harp Convention, now in its 32nd year. Stephen remained active in the Sacred Harp community, traveling around California and throughout the country to sing. An avid gourmet chef, Stephen was particularly passionate about the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes he grew over the years, inspiring in each of his children a love for regenerative agriculture, Earth stewardship, and home cooking. Throughout the last 15 years, Stephen struggled with addiction and experienced bouts of house-lessness. He openly acknowledged this history in his final months, as his family continues to, in the hope of inspiring others to lovingly respond to similar challenges. Stephen is survived by his mother, Helen "Tibby" Forve O'Leary, his five siblings, Anne, Clare, Paul, Kate, and Richard, and his three loving children, Lucy, Rachel, and Isaac. His brother Mark and his father Paul predeceased him. Memorial services will be held at Sacred Heart Church in Olema, California on February 29th at noon, with a celebration of life to follow at the O'Leary family home nearby in Inverness. All who loved Stephen are welcome. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the "Stephen D. O'Leary Fund" established at the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County (PO Box 150527, San Rafael, CA 94915) to help those needing housing assistance while working to maintain their sobriety.

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Published in Marin Independent Journal on Feb. 16, 2020.
Celebration of Life
O'Leary family home
Memorial service
12:00 PM
Sacred Heart Church
Memories & Condolences
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2 entries
February 18, 2020
So sorry to hear of Stephen's death. I remember him as a kind, funny, and gifted fellow traveler at Urban School in the 70s. I see him: head inclined, a sly smile, pushing up his glasses as he laughs at his own joke. And then we're all laughing.
Liz Mechem Carroll
February 16, 2020
Although I did not know. Professor O'Leary, I want to thank the family for including his addiction and intermittent homelessness. I hope this will encourage those reading the obituary to see homeless people differently. No one knows their background stories. It is apparent that this man had a loving family and I send you my condolences on your lost.
Albert E. Aubin
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