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State Rep. Elaine O'Brien Loses Battle with Brain Cancer

Fellow legislators are sending their condolences about the longtime public servant from Suffield, and Gov. Malloy orders state flags to half-staff in her honor.

State Rep. Elaine O'Brien. Credit: House Democrats' website.
State Rep. Elaine O'Brien. Credit: House Democrats' website.

The community has lost a longtime public servant who dedicated her life to working on behalf of others.

Elaine O'Brien, a Suffield resident who was currently serving as state representative for her hometown, East Granby and Windsor, died Friday morning after a long and courageous battle against brain cancer. She was 58.

O'Brien leaves behind a husband, Justin Donnelly, and three children, John, Danny and Thomas, as well as a large extended family. Services have not been announced yet.

Her passing has prompted fellow legislators to share their memories and condolences about a well-respected colleague.

"Elaine never once talked about herself. She only wanted to know how others were doing, and to discuss issues at the Capitol and in her District," said state Rep. David Baram, D-15. "She was so brave, driven and optimistic. During her last few weeks, Elaine kept saying how lucky she was, to have have such a supportive family and so many friends. She cherished her very large family and her many friends. She missed being at the Capitol and at work. And especially to her constituents and friends in Windsor, Elaine never stopped thinking about you."

Malloy Orders Flags to Half-Staff

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy directed Connecticut flags to half-staff in honor of O’Brien. 

“Elaine was a passionate legislator who dedicated much of her life to public service at the local and state levels, championing proposals to improve the health and safety of Connecticut citizens,” Malloy said. “Throughout her illness, she remained focused on the people of her district. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and constituents at this difficult time.”

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman added, “The General Assembly has lost an outstanding Representative who fought tirelessly to remain committed to the needs of her constituents — from families to small business owners to workers. Our hearts are broken today as we mourn her loss and reflect on her service.” 

O’Brien was vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and served on the commerce and transportation committees in the General Assembly.

Elaine O'Brien's Biography

As told on her House Democrats web page:

Elaine O’Brien was first elected in 2010 to represent the 61st District, which includes Suffield, parts of East Granby, and parts of 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.

As a mother of three boys, now grown, she first became involved in the school system as a member of the PTO and as a scout leader.

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 and Personnel Committee and a representative to the CREC Council.

Elaine has a BS from Pennsylvania State University in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Public Administration from Westfield State College.

Baram said she was a former pilot, too.

"May her last flight take her to a better place where Elaine can find eternal peace and happiness," he said.

Jim Capillo February 22, 2014 at 07:18 AM
Elaine was my first flight instructor many years ago. She was a very talented and capable pilot. I will always remember our flights together and cherish the memories of the food, beers and laughs after our flights. Now Elaine flies thru the Heavens without an airplane...... Godspeed, my old friend - 'till we meet again. My sincere condolences to her family, friends and co-workers. Jim Capillo Gloucester, MA
Daniel K. Kehoe February 22, 2014 at 07:58 AM
Jim - Elaine also used to talk about being a "follow me girl" at the airport, driving around the vehicle that told an airplane to follow her to a new spot to reposition, etc. It was illustrative of the fun she had with everything she did, always smiling and laughing about whatever it was. So many people probably had no idea of her experience with flight and airports knowing her only as Town Clerk and State Rep or through her Rotary involvement; thank you for mentioning your story.
Amy Reay February 22, 2014 at 08:39 AM
I did not know she was a pilot until now. What I did know was that she worked tirelessly on behalf of many, myself included. Elaine went to bat for me during my battle for my son's education. Every time I saw her, she not only asked about my son but she listened to my reply. The world needs more Elaine O'Briens. She will be missed.
Jim Capillo February 22, 2014 at 09:25 AM
Hi Dan, Oh yes, Elaine used to do everything around the airport ! Another quick flying story - when I first went into the office to sign up for lessons, Elaine was the only one there, so we chatted and she took all my info and we made an appointment for me the next day. I showed up on time and again, she was the only one there. I asked who my instructor was going to be and she said "Me". I nearly died; here was this little "girl", a few years younger than me (please keep in mind that this was a time when very few women were instructors) and weighing about 100 lbs soaked ! It was apparent very quickly that she was a competent and thorough instructor - and we had fun on every flight! We became fast friends and we kept in touch for awhile, but we lost track of each other as happens to many..... we reconnected a few years ago via Facebook and caught up via email. I will fondly remember all the good times when we were kids.... I have a picture of Elaine and I at an airport in NH we had flown to : https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1236109420867&set=a.1351876274966.51608.1173158556&type=3&theater
Mary Martin Hryniewicz February 23, 2014 at 01:51 PM
RIP My friend. I had the great fortune of meeting you in my lifetime!!!

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