The many, many friends, family and co-workers of Cecilia O’Brien are mourning the sudden passing of the 61-year-old Quad Cities community leader.
O’Brien, 61, Moline, died on Thursday, May 12, 2022 at UnityPoint — Trinity Hospital, Rock Island, after a short battle with cancer. She had been diagnosed just six weeks earlier, her sister Melita Tunnicliff said Sunday.
“This all happened so fast. I think our daughter Anna Holland says it best: My Aunt Cecilia was incredibly giving and loving, and I don’t think anyone in the family would be hurt if I said she was the best hostess among us,” Tunnicliff related. “Aunt Cecilia had a lot of room in her heart for family and for all animals and she was admirably passionate about politics and the labor movement. She was the kind of aunt, godmother, and community member that I strive to be. We’re all going to miss her so.”
Tunnicliff added: “We were five siblings, and Cecilia was the eldest by one year. She was the leader, always going first. She brought her work home from kindergarten and taught me to read. She was the first to get a job, at the new SouthPark Mall, and got me a job too.
“She looked out for all of us and still did until last week. She worked her whole life, and still found time to take care of family, volunteer for civic groups, earn her college degree, and serve in elected office,” she said.
“She loved and supported her husband Pat, daughter Kelly, son-in-law Jeff, and especially dear to her were her grandsons Owen and Ian. We loved her and will miss her so much,” Tunnicliff said.
Cecilia was born Aug. 23, 1960 in Davenport, the daughter of Charles Robert and Mary Lou (Rieke) Schaechter. She married Patrick O’Brien on Nov. 23, 1979 in Moline. Cecilia graduated from Moline High School and Western Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree.
Cecilia worked at Partners in Job Training, in the office of former Congressman Lane Evans, and at Mediacom. She was last employed by United Way and the Quad City Federation of Labor. She had served as an elected official on the Rock Island County Board and the Moline School Board. During her lifetime, she was a member of Viva Quad Cities Board, Moline Preservation Society, Moline Rotary and many other community organizations. She was a longtime member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
“Cecilia was a loving and giving person,” her obituary says. “Although she worked full time all her life, she always had time for family and friends as well as volunteer work. She was devoted to her grandsons Owen and Ian. She will be greatly missed.”
Survivors include her husband, Patrick; daughter, Kelly (Jeff) Sidor, Denver, Colo.; grandsons, Owen and Ian; father, Charles Schaechter, Moline; sister, Melita (Scott) Tunnicliff, Bettendorf; brothers, David Schaechter, Moline, James (Susan) Schaechter, Cumming, Ga., and Joseph (Susie) Schaechter, Moline, and many loving in-laws, nieces and nephews.
“She gave so much of herself to her family, and to this community in so many ways,” Tunnicliff added. “We are all really struggling to deal with this sudden tragedy.”
Rene Gellerman, president/CEO of United Way Quad Cities, in a Facebook post, called O’Brien a “fun-loving, generous, eternally optimistic, collaborative, energetic and kind colleague and friend.”
“I am truly shaken,” Gellerman wrote. “When I talked to her recently, I was in awe of her courage, optimism and transparency. She had resigned herself to the fight and expressed gratitude for available treatments as well as all who cared and prayed for her.
“I worked with Cecilia many years ago when we were both staff for Congressman Lane Evans. We reconnected 20+ years later at #UnitedWayQC. She had the same zest for life and commitment to serve people and make our community better. She always worked hard at all her passions. And, she had MANY.”
At UWQC, O’Brien was the critical liaison to labor partners and worked part of her hours with the Quad City Federation of Labor. Alex Kolker of United Way’s staff, said of Cecilia: “She was a force of nature. I don’t know if I ever saw her standing still.”
In an online tribute wall, Dino Leone wrote: “Cecilia was a wonderful person! She cared so much about family, workers, and animals. I never forget her commitment to the cause of working families, she was a true friend and a pleasant coworker. She will be missed by many!!”
Paul and Nancy Mulcahey wrote: “Cecilia was a major contributor to our community. She worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for so many people.”
A visitation will be held Wednesday, May 18, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Rafferty Funeral Home, 2111 1st Street A, Moline. A Mass of Christian Burial is Thursday, May 19, 2022 at Sacred Heart Church, Moline, with burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery, East Moline. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Rock Island County Humane Society.
For condolences and more information, visit the funeral home website.