Mary O’Brien, 97, of Decorahdied early Monday morning, May 12, 2014, at the Wellington Place Nursing Home in Decorah. Mass of Christian Burial was at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 16, at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Decorah, with Rev. Phil Gibbs officiating. Organist was Mary Beth Bouska. Cantor was Brandy Hemesath. Hymns were “Here I am, Lord,” “Prayer of St. Francis,” “Gift of Finest Wheat,” “How Great Thou Art” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” Lectors were Mary Beth Hebeisen and Sara Cleveland. Intercessions were by Terry Kelly. Offertory gift bearers were Kris Nystul, Ellie Fry and Marty Orwitz. Eucharistic minister was Terry Kelly. Casketbearers were Terry Kelly, Mike Kelly, Tim Breitsprecher and Tom Breitsprecher. Interment was at St. Bridget’s Catholic Cemetery in Bluffton. Arrangements were handled by Schluter – Balik Funeral Home in Decorah.
Mary Lu O’Brien was born July 10, 1916, the daughter of Terrance and Ellen “Nellie” (Sexton) O’Brien in Bluffton Township, Winneshiek County. She was the fifth of seven children. Mary graduated from Bluffton elementary schools and Decorah High School. She later was awarded a bachelor’s degree by Marycrest College in Davenport. After working in defense plants in Illinois and New Jersey during World War II, Mary became an educator. She taught the early grades in elementary schools in and around Rock Island, Ill. for approximately 30 years. She was a talented, devoted and successful teacher of young children. Mary retired from teaching in the Rock Island area and returned to Decorah to live in 1978. She lived in the Ludeking-Bruening and Noble apartments on the West Side until 2009, when she moved permanently to Wellington Place in Freeport, where she resided at the time of her death. Mary O’Brien was a vibrant, funny, intelligent, feisty and caring woman. She loved to play Euchre with her family and to go dancing in her early years. In her retirement years, she volunteered at St. Benedict Catholic School, helping with art work. She was a member of St. Benedict Catholic Church in Decorah, and a friend of the parish in which she was raised, St. Bridget’s, in Bluffton. Although Mary did not have children of her own, she was an important aunt to 14 nephews and nieces, a part of each of their lives, as well of the lives of their families.
Mary is survived by her Decorah family including her sister Lucille's family: Katie Kelly, Martha Borek of Seattle, Wash. and Terry (Alice) Kelly of Denver, Colo.; her sister Rose Breitsprecher's two sons, Tom (Suzie) of Brandon, Fla. and Tim (Jeannie) of Mabel, Minn.; her sister Helen Carolan's  Rock Island, Ill. family, Raymond Carolan of Seattle, Wash.,  Rosalyn (Keith) Bell of Tallahassee, Fla., Ruth (Louie) Orwitz of Rock Island, Ill., Eunice (Vince) McGuire of Rockford, Ill. and Mary Ellen (Richard) Kuhlman, Darien, Ill.; along with several great-nieces and great-nephews.  
Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Terrance and Nellie O'Brien; her six siblings:  Lucille (Bill) Kelly, Helen (Raymond) Carolan, Rose (Henry) Breitsprecher, Paul O'Brien, James O'Brien and John O'Brien; nephews: Gene Kelly, David Kelly, Charles Carolan, Dennis Breitsprecher, Daniel Breitsprecher.