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we remember the life and achievements of John O'Shea

John T. O’Shea
by Susan Harward Barwell

When I agreed to write something in memory of John O’Shea, I thought it would be easy…no problem; however, how do you capture nearly 50 years of marvelous friendship in a few paragraphs? How do you do justice to a man like John O’Shea in words, much less in just a few sentences?

But John O’Shea was a man of words, and a man of his word, so I needed to be the same (except, of course, I’m a woman!) John was definitely one of the good guys.

John’s #1 priority, as long as I have known him, was his family. He was so proud to be the oldest brother – the BIG BROTHER – to his 4 sisters and 2 brothers, and was always concerned about them and their well-being. John took his role of “big brother” very seriously, and as their families grew, his feelings of concern and responsibility grew also. He wanted to take care of all of them.

John was especially loving and caring to his parents. As his Mother, Rose, recently told me, all she had to do was mention that “it might be nice to have” and it would appear at her door. John loved and appreciated his Mother immensely and wanted only the best for her.

And then his immediate family – Sandy, the love of his life, his rock and finally his caregiver; Jim, Karen, and Mark, all of whom he loved beyond measure – always concerned that they be properly provided for; that they were able to experience life as fully as possible. John would do whatever he could to help them achieve their dreams.

And then his friendships…John was almost as concerned about and generous with his close friends as he was with his family, even summoning the strength in his final days to write us thank you/good-bye letters – what a treasure. And lest I forget to mention it, I also got my instructions – a John Thomas O’Shea hallmark. This man of words was great at giving instructions.
In the last days of our Senior year at Cocoa High, John and I were sitting on top of a portable building, probably Col. C.B. DeVoe’s (not sure how we got up there!) and we were talking about the future. Ten years seemed a long time away, and 25 almost unthinkable to high school Seniors, but we had high hopes of future success both for our friendship and in life, and his purpose even then was to be successful in order to take care of his family, both existing and what was to be.

At that time, John designated me a “little sister” (even though I am older which he also never let me forget!).  I have always treasured that designation and hope his sisters and brothers did not mind sharing. On that roof, we promised to always be there for each other and over all these years, I hope I never let him down, as John was surely always there for me.

It was our great fortune to have spouses, his Sandy and my Richard, who made this a Fab Four of friendship. For many years we lived in British Columbia, and they were in the Seattle area, so we were able to get together frequently. The dinners, trips on his beloved boat, Skibbereen – and he did love that boat (sorry, Sandy), European travels, laughter, tears, or just simple evenings spent together were all so very special. We sent the same birthday card back and forth over the years, more than one actually, and those cards are an amazing diary of our lives and friendship.

Yes, John O’Shea was one of the good guys. Our class motto was “65-Best Alive” and as Sara Ann Reid Hansen just wrote me, “John was truly one of ‘65’s best.”

I am truly honored to have been his nearly life long friend. Next to Richard, John was my best friend and I’ll miss him terribly. But he accomplished everything he wished for on that roof so long ago, and then some, and although his life was cut so very short, it was a life incredibly well-lived.