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Joseph O'Brien
April 11, 2024


PORTLAND- Joseph Martin O’Brien, age 71, passed away on April 11, 2024, surrounded by family in Portland, ME, after a long illness. Joe was born in Troy, NY, on March 30, 1953, the son of Marion (Sullivan) O’Brien and the late M. Raymond O’Brien. Joe attended St. Gregory’s School in Loudonville, NY, where his father was the founding headmaster. He graduated from Canterbury School in 1971 and went on to the University of Notre Dame where he majored in English and graduated in 1975. Joe studied at Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, completing a Master of Arts degree in 1986.

Joe devoted his life to teaching and was a beloved educator for over forty years during which time he had a meaningful positive impact on many students, including those who stayed in touch with him years after he taught them. He began his career as an English teacher at the Albany Academy for Boys where he taught for close to ten years and then spent two years as the head of upper school at Perkiomen School in Pennsburg, PA. He moved to Syracuse in 1990 when he accepted a position as assistant headmaster at Manlius Pebble Hill School in Dewitt, NY. Along with the late Baxter Ball as headmaster, he reinvigorated the school and spent nearly 20 years there as the school’s enrollment grew from 200 to nearly 600 students. As an administrator, teacher, counselor and coach at MPH, he changed the lives of many students through his leadership, sense of humor, love of literature and considerable listening skills. Joe was a member of the Zen Center in Syracuse where he lived for 16 years and taught a meditation class for neurodivergent individuals as he pursued Buddhist ideals which brought him a level of peace and understanding. The influence he had on so many young lives is evident in the many tributes he received from past students.

Joe loved literature, poetry and the life of the mind. He truly believed in the power of the written and spoken word to bring beauty and meaning to the world and was one of the last great conversationalists. He could find common ground with anyone and was genuinely interested in the lives of most every person he met. A special thank you goes out to Steve Chapman, Joe’s dear friend in Portland, who provided much-appreciated care and concern for Joe during the last year of his life.

Joe was pre-deceased in 2015 by his beloved father, M. Raymond O’Brien. He is survived by his mother, Marion Sullivan O’Brien; his wife, Mary Kate (MacLean) O’Brien; sons Eamon and Liam O’Brien; and siblings: Michael O’Brien, John O’Brien, Mary T. O’Brien (Tom Kennedy), Tom (Mary) O’Brien, Anne O’Brien (Shawn Sullivan), Martin (Sharon) O’Brien, Kate (Mike) Barcomb and Matt (Melissa) O’Brien and numerous nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Joe’s life will be held at a later date this spring.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Chad E. Poitras Cremation and Funeral Service, Buxton,

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Chad E. Poitras Cremation & Funeral Service
498 Long Plains Road
Buxton, ME 04093