On Sunday, January 22, 2023, the world lost its most beautiful soul. It was on that day that Leslie Jean O’Brien drew her last breaths. She was surrounded by several loved ones whose hearts now beat broken. The void of her radiance has left the journey forward bleak and so very hard to navigate. But though those hearts beat broken, they do so with the knowledge that she lives within them still. Though the world may appear darker for now, her light and love cannot not be contained by the physical limitations of this existence. In her 70 years on this Earth, she touched countless lives and saved countless more. Her selflessness knew no bounds. Her body and heart bore the bruises and scars of her sacrifices, each one evidence of the many battles she fought for the sake of others. She was art. She was war. She was Love in the purest form. The impact of her life can not be overstated, any more than the impact of her death can. She will be missed beyond all measure, but her legacy shall forever live on in those who were so very blessed to have known her.
Leslie was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on “some old fool’s day” (April 1st) in 1952. As her mother experienced considerable health issues for most of her life, Leslie had to step up from a very early age to help care for the household. Thankfully, her caregiving instinct came to her as naturally as the blue eyes passed down to her by her father (Raymond Cole) and the red hair and fighter’s spirit that she inherited from her mother (Betty Jean Cole [Beneker]). Though her positive qualities were innumerable, it was this drive to protect and provide for others that most defined her life. In fact, it was what eventually brought her to Florida, as she wished to be closer to care for her mother, who continued to deal with significant health-related concerns. Once here, Leslie worked in various helping professions, including as a CNA and childcare provider. In these roles she thrived and became the living embodiment of her personal motto, “Because nice matters.” She refused to let the unfairness or cruelties of this life, many of which she personally experienced, change her perspective. Rather than allowing these things to drag her down, she turned pain into power, and lifted others up instead. With unconditional acceptance she embraced everyone, particularly those who were dismissed by broader society. From the confused elderly patient with sundowners who asked the same question repeatedly to the special needs child whose overstimulation and fear was labeled a “meltdown” to the loved ones of these individuals who were tired and overwhelmed. Without complaint or concern for self, she sought to soothe each of them and help them feel not only acknowledged but understood. She had a way of not only seeing the best in people but helping them to find a way to see it, too, and then become it.
This was equally true when it came to her family, a family that might not have existed if it weren’t for her unadulterated belief in others’ goodness and strength. You see, before getting together, Leslie’s husband, Charlie, was quite the hellraiser. He drank. He smoked. He cursed. A lot. He belonged to a motorcycle gang known for never shying away from a gunfight. To most “respectable folk” he appeared gruff, feral, a menace to society unworthy of their attention. But Leslie saw through all this to the real him, a man who was lost and in pain. So, one day when he was over at the house with Leslie’s brother, she took her wiggling and wet baby girl, Jenny, out of the sink where she had just bathed her and passed her wrapped in a towel over to him. In this moment, this supposedly hard man softened, smiling and babbling back to the baby in his arms. Jenny’s older sister, Lori, toddled at Leslie’s legs. And this was the start of them becoming a family. Though it did not happen overnight, Leslie helped Charlie find his way, helped to heal his many hurts. It was her strength and steadfast devotion to what he could become that allowed him to in fact do so. And in doing so, their family grew. Two more daughters eventually came along, one with fiery red hair like her Mama and the other with big brown eyes like her Daddy. And let’s be honest, Leslie adopted every friend any of her girls ever had. That and she babysat half the neighborhood. She often said her greatest goal in life was to become a mom and, my oh my, did she ever succeed. She became a mom to everyone. In time the family grew more, to include their daughters’ partners and their kids and then their kids’ kids. And all of this would not have happened if it had not been for Leslie. She was the reason behind so many wonderful things. She was and still remains an inspiration to all.
Leslie is survived by her husband of 45 years Charles Patrick O’Brien, III, their daughters Lori Sutton, Jennifer McCarron, Casey O’Brien, and Cara O’Brien Osorio, their sons-in-law Ron and Leo, their grandchildren Brendon, Austin, Hannah, Victoria, Kody, Joe, Bernadette, Sebastian, and Harland, and their great-grandchildren Haley, Ahnalia, Alekzander, Jameson and Abigail, and Leslie’s brother, Raymond Lee Cole.
In the depths of despair and grief following her passing, those hurting most by the loss of Leslie know that she was a woman of unwavering faith. It was in her faith that she found peace and comfort, despite all the pain and worry she endured throughout her life. It was this same faith that made her certain that when she left this Earth for her Eternal Home, she would be met by those she missed the most. She so looked forward to being reunited with her mom, dad, and son, Andy most of all. Despite the heaviness of their hearts, her loved ones try to imagine her being welcomed by them with warm hugs and joyful tears into a kingdom unblemished by any more suffering. We pray she knows the peace and happiness of which she was so deserving. But most of all we hope that we will see her again someday. Until then, we think of you, we miss you, we love you.
In lieu of flowers, our family kindly requests that donations be made to the Pregnancy Care Center at BETA. Checks or money orders can be made out to BETA and mailed to 620 Garden Street, Titusville, FL 32796.
Should you wish to share a memory of Leslie that will be read at the service by the officiant, please email Joe Hennis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include “Leslie O’Brien” in the title and, if you would like, include your name and how you knew her within the body of the message. Thank you.