Ellen M. (Grzywa) O’Brien

By on December 24, 2008

            Ellen M. (Grzywa) O’Brien, 56, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., formerly of Maple Park, passed away unexpectedly at Torrance Memorial Hospital on Friday, Dec. 12, 2008.

            She was born Oct. 15, 1952, in DeKalb, the daughter of Virgil S. and Mary Ellen Grzywa.

            Ellen grew up on the family farm near Maple Park. She was a graduate of Notre Dame High School in DeKalb with the class of 1970. She earned her bachelor’s degree while living in Orlando, Fla.

            On June 25, 1977, she was united in marriage to James R. O’Brien at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Maple Park, and together they raised a family of three. They made many close friends while living in Indiana, Florida, Georgia and California.

            Ellen may have had a job or two throughout her life, but nothing compared to her being a devoted wife, a loving mother and daughter, a sister to lean on and a great aunt and friend.

            Ellen so loved her family and was with her brother James at his passing when the opportunity came about to become a volunteer with Torrance Memorial Health and Home Hospice Program, she couldn’t say no.

            This volunteer position eventually came to be a career for her as she became the Volunteer Coordinator for the program. Her many duties included Daughters without Mothers, held on Mother’s Day, and the Light up a Life event that is held in December to remember all who have passed. She was loved and respected by all who came in contact with her.

            In addition to her husband of 31 years, James R. O’Brien of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., she leaves 3 children, Heather O’Brien of Prague in the Czech Republic, Katherine O’Brien of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Jacob O’Brien of Santa Cruz, Calif. She also leaves her father, Virgil S. Grzywa of Scottsdale, Ariz.; two sisters, Carolyn Grzywa of Lindenwood, Ill., Mary Beth (Bill) Voorhaar of Tempe, Ariz.; three brothers, Edward (Janet) Grzywa of Maple Park, Joseph (Betty) Grzywa of Hastings, Neb., Harold (Jill) Grzywa of Franklin Grove, Ill.; many nieces and nephews, Morgan Voorhaar of Tempe, Ariz., Sarah (Jeremy) Jacobsen of Peoria, Ariz., Kelly Grzywa of Beloit, Wis., Jillian and Ryan Grzywa of Maple Park, John Grzywa of Franklin Grove, Ill., and Garrett and Kane Carlson of Lindenwood, Ill.; three great-nieces,  Kylie and Kyra Jacobsen of Peoria, Ariz., and Kaitlyn Grzywa of Beloit, Wis.

            In addition, she leaves many cherished aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.  She also leaves an extended family she shared with her husband Jim; Michael and Bobbi O’Brien and family; Christine and Michael Pollack and family; Jeff and Diane O’Brien and family; and Jim’s dad, Richard E. O’Brien, all from the San Francisco area.

            She now joins her mother, Mary Ellen; her brother James and sister, Patricia (who died in infancy); her paternal grandparents, John F. and Barbara A. Grzywa; maternal grandparents, Edward and Mary Sullivan; and her aunt, Dorothy Grzywa.

            Visitation was held Sunday, Dec. 21, at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, IL. Friends called from 3 to 6 p.m. A liturgical wake service was held at 5:30 p.m. Her funeral Mass was celebrated Monday, Dec. 22, at 10:30 a.m. at the Church of St. Mary, Maple Park. The Rev. Fr. Joachim Tyrtania officiated, and interment followed at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Maple Park.

            Contributions can be made in Ellen’s name to the Torrance Memorial Health and Home Hospice program at 3330 Lomita Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505, (310) 325-9110.