Cecilia O’Brien remembers being a dedicated advocate for the Quad-Cities community | Politics and elections

Former Rock Island County Board Member Cecilia O’Brien is remembered as a respected advocate for the county, organized labor and historic preservation, as well as a dedicated community volunteer.

O’Brien died of cancer May 12 at UnityPoint-Trinity Hospital in Rock Island. She was 61 years old.

O’Brien was elected to County Council in November 2016, representing District 10 of Moline. Prior to her resignation from the board in May 2019, she was a vocal opponent of the sale of county-owned nursing home Hope Creek Care Center, a vocal advocate for saving the old county courthouse of Rock Island – which is now to be demolished – and a supporter of council downsizing.

Board Chairman Richard Quijas Brunk said O’Brien had a big impact on the community.

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“I’ve known Cecilia and her husband, Pat, for about 18 years now. She’s always been a very caring and compassionate person,” Brunk said. “Cecilia always gave 110% whether it was to the county council, the school board, for the labor movement, in the community or to her family. She was always ready to step up and give it her all.”

O’Brien is known for her volunteer work in the community, having served on the Moline School Board, the Rotary Club of Moline, the board of Viva Quad Cities, and the Moline Preservation Society.

County Council Deputy Chairman Brian Vyncke said one of the qualities he respected in O’Brien was his professional attitude, even though there were occasional disagreements among council members.

“She was very dedicated and hard working,” Vyncke said. “She came to the meetings very well prepared. She always had good speaking points on topics that were dear to her. She was very well respected.

“I was impressed with Cecilia from the first time I met her,” he said.

O’Brien was hired by United Way Quad Cities in early 2019 and served part-time as a liaison with the Quad-City Federation of Labour. United Way Quad Cities President and CEO Rene Gellerman described O’Brien as a “fun-loving, generous, eternally optimistic, collaborative, energetic and kind colleague”.

“Cecilia was a friend to everyone she met. She would go the extra mile for anyone,” Gellerman said. “I spoke to her about a week ago. I was impressed by her courage, optimism and transparency. She had resigned herself to fighting the cancer diagnosis and expressed her gratitude for the treatments available as well as for everyone who cared about her and prayed for her.”

Gellerman said she and O’Brien first worked together many years ago when they were both on the staff of Congressman Lane Evans, D-Illinois. When they reconnected more than 20 years later at United Way Quad Cities, Gellerman said O’Brien still had “the same zest for life and the same commitment to serving people and improving our community. She has always worked hard in all her passions. And, she got a lot.”

“At UWQC, Cecilia served as a liaison with our union partners and worked part of her hours with the Quad City Federation of Labour. She was involved in all of the workplace campaigns we ran which included trades and union members, she wore her heart on her sleeve and defended the impact that an investment of any size can have with Centraide.

“Surely God had a special place for her. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her husband, Pat O’Brien, her daughter and grandchildren, whom she spoke of all the time. She loved her family and friends dearly. She will be deeply missed by our Quad Cities United Way family.”

Jeff Deppe, a county board member, said he’s known O’Brien for 30 years.

“When she was on the (county) council, she was always informed and knew her facts,” Deppe said. “She was pointing out the things that worried her, as a board member should.”

In addition to county council, Deppe also worked with O’Brien in his role as Illinois vice-president of the Quad-City Federation of Labor.

“She was always involved, even during her battle with cancer,” Deppe said. “She loved helping with the Children’s Advocacy Group, she loved helping with the United Way, food banks and anything work related. She loved being at the forefront, helping. That’s what I admired about her. – she put her all into everything she did.

“She will be missed,” he said. “She was always there to lend a hand, and that’s really what we will miss.”

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