Lucille M. O'Brien
Lucille O'Brien was 94 in this photo taken at the wedding of one of her granddaughters in the summer of 2012. (Submitted / August 31, 2013)
The second oldest of 12 children born and raised on a farm in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Lucille had a work ethic to match her strong will.
“She was determined. She had a feistiness in her. Some relatives called it the Miller spirit,” said daughter Jan Young of Williamsport. “But she had a lot of faith and a strong belief in her God.”
Lucille also was proud that she skipped a grade in school.
Her children have good memories of the annual family reunion with a very large extended family.
Lucille’s determination came through when she insisted on going to nursing school, despite her father’s objections. With a large family, help was needed on the farm to care for the younger children, Jan said.
Lucille didn’t back down, and her father drove her to Hagerstown to attend Washington County Training School for Nurses. She graduated in November 1938 in a class of 13.
It was at Beck’s Tavern in downtown Hagerstown that Lucille met Harry O’Brien. She was dancing with a friend of his when Harry, who was a foot taller than Lucille, cut in.
He told her he would be the last man she would dance with. Three months later, in March 1940, they got married in Winchester, Va.
“They just had no doubt,” Jan said.
It would be nine years until Jan was born, followed by sons Doug and Pat. The three children were born within five years.
“Her whole life revolved around her children,” said Jan, a retired schoolteacher.
The O’Briens suffered when Doug died in 1996 at age 45, a difficult loss for the whole family. It was their faith, family and friends that got them through it, Jan said.
Harry worked at Pangborn, then Fairchild during the war, unhappy to be deferred due to severe stomach ulcers. He then worked at and retired from Mack Trucks.
Meanwhile, Lucille’s more than 50-year nursing career took her to many different health facilities in the county. The one that really touched the O’Brien children was Kemp Horn Home, where Lucille, who was called “Missy O” by the residents, served as director.
The home cared for mentally challenged patients, and Lucille’s leadership helped transform it from an institutional setting to a loving home, Jan said.
“We just got close to all the children there,” Jan said.
“She left a legacy of helping the less fortunate,” said Pat, who lives in Hagerstown and owns Ben’s Flower Shop.
The O’Briens raised their children in a Christian home, saying prayers before meals and hearing the children’s bedtime prayers. Saturday nights meant washing hair and polishing shoes in preparation for church the next day.