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O'Brien, Michael Francis


Michael Francis O’Brien passed away on December 18, 2020. Michael was born the son of Lawrence and Elinor O’Brien on June 14, 1954 in Hartford Connecticut.

Dr. O’Brien was a man of great magnitude, ambition and generosity – though you’d never hear him discuss his many great personal and professional accomplishments.

Michael attended Columbia University on his path to become a world renowned orthopedic spinal surgeon. He would go on to complete two fellowships including one at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. During his career Dr. O’Brien authored numerous studies published in medical journals, invented prosthetics and traveled the world donating his time to advance surgical education and knowledge. His colleagues observed his willingness and excitement to treat patients with complex cases where other surgeons shied away. Dr. O’Brien’s patients traveled the globe for his medical help and left his care knowing his indelibly genuine compassion.

In 2006, Dr. O’Brien founded the Spinal Deformity Team, a medical mission in Managua, Nicaragua. The mission’s emphasis was to address pediatric spinal deformities. For almost a decade, Dr. O’Brien would travel to and from Nicaragua donating his skilled and steady hands, the hands of an Irish carpenter, to improve the lives of those most hopeless.

Michael’s professional life was marked by tremendous passions and accomplishments but all these pale when compared to his love for family – his three spirited children and the love of his life, Leonor Montalvo O’Brien. From the moment he was born he kept his parents busy. As a boy, Michael was known as prankster and was quick to antagonize his siblings. On one occasion, Michael coaxed his sister Ann into the dryer and on another taught his five siblings how to light a match during his parent’s holiday Christmas party. According to his siblings, he rarely ever dealt with the consequences of his many pranks.

As a father, Michael encouraged his children to live life outside their comfort zone, passing on his zeal for life to his daughter Erynn.

Our lives are so much richer for all our “Michael stories” and it is these stories that will keep Michael alive with us forever. His life exemplified curiosity, creativity, pursuit of perfection and an insatiable restlessness desire to learn and explore.  He was a Christian, artist, furniture maker, sailor, scuba diver, sculptor and friend to all.

On Sunday’s you’d find Michael at Highland Park United Methodist Church, as he always sought to deepen his faith and strengthen his relationship with God. On many occasions, following services, Michael would venture to Hillstones with a felt hat on his head and his rhythmic and magnetizing laugh loud enough for the entire restaurant to embrace.

Michael was a truly remarkable man who throughout his life, single-mindedly sought out the “road less traveled.”  He embodied the ideal that anything is possible when you put your mind to it and that the gifts that each of us are graced with are meant to be shared with others.  This sentiment of Michael’s life will live on through the family he has left behind. Michael is survived by his beloved children, Kalin, Connor and Erynn, his former wife Leonor Montalvo O’Brien, his wife Heather Bell O’Brien, his parents – Elinor and Lawrence O’Brien, his five siblings – Ann Marie O’Brien, Maureen Fallon, Timothy O’Brien, Patricia Scott, John O’Brien, cousins including Mary Ellen Austin, and the many nieces and nephews who loved time with him.

The world is emptier without Michael Francis, though we will hear his laugh bellow through rooms for decades to come.

Of all the money that e’er I had,

I spent it in good company.

And all the harm I’ve ever done,

alas it was to none but me.

And all I’ve done for want of wit

to mem’ry now I can’t recall;

So fill to me the parting glass,

Good night and joy be to you all.


So fill to me the parting glass

And drink a health whate’er befalls

And gently rise and softly call

Good night and joy be to you all

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the following in Michael’s memory:

Scoliosis Research Society

Our Pride Academy (

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