Joy J. O’Brien, 60: Longtime state Senate secretary exemplified public service

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PORTLAND — Joy J. O’Brien, 60, the longest-serving secretary of the Maine Senate in history, died Oct. 15 following a courageous battle with cancer.

She was born Feb. 23, 1954, to John (“Jack”) and Jadine O’Brien in Brockton, Massachusetts. After moving to Portland, she grew up in Deering Center, and graduated from Deering High School and New England College.

O’Brien started her career with the New Hampshire Legislature as a nonpartisan staff member, and then came to the Maine Legislature in 1980 as a special assistant in the Senate Democratic Office. In 1982, she was sworn in as secretary of the Senate and worked there until her death.

O’Brien exemplified what a public servant should be. During her tenure, she was instrumental in a major remodeling of the Senate’s chambers; under her direction the Senate balcony was re-opened for public use. In addition, O’Brien paved the way for the use of information technology throughout the office and the chambers.

In the opinions of many, her qualifications for her role were unmatched. She understood and respected the legislative process, and was an excellent parliamentarian and a skilled administrator. She also was a respected member of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries.

While O’Bren had many interests in her life, her love of bowling was at the top of the list. A member of the bowling team Back in Black, O’Brien (or “Skittles,” as she was known at the bowling alley) loved her time on the lanes of Bayside Bowl.

In addition to her parents, O’Brien is survived by her partner of 15 years, Dick Ranaghan, of Portland, and his sons, Matt and Jimmy Ranaghan. She is also survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Jill O’Brien Thiel and Peter Thiel, of Peaks Island, and her niece and nephew, Caitlin and Robert Thiel. O’Bren was also close to her godchildren, Eddie and Zoe Beaulieu, Lilly Beaulieau-Mullen and Lilly’s son Mickey Mullen.

Visiting hours were held Sunday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral & Cremation Services, in Portland, followed on Monday by a celebration of O’Brien’s life at St. Joseph Church, in Portland.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in O’Brien’s name to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine, P.O. Box 7830, Portland, ME 04112.

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