Patricia (Pat) O'Brien, Alfred University alumna and longtime partner of the recently deceased AU history professor, Vicki Eaklor, passed away on Sunday (June 3, 2018) at Highland Hospital in Rochester, after a long struggle with cancer.
She attributed her own fatal illness to an inherited Fh (heterozygous) lipid disorder combined with a reaction to statin drugs, which may have unleashed an aggressive form of cancer. She attributed her survival well beyond the original prognosis to her intensive treatments using natural medicine and never giving up.
Born in Buffalo, O'Brien spent her early childhood years in Lockport, Williamsville, Pittsford, and Whitesboro, and her high school years on Long Island. She also lived briefly in Redding, Conn. and Newport, RI. After coming to Western New York to study at Alfred University, she remained in the region as a resident of Andover.
Passionate about athletics, O'Brien ran track and cross-country in both high school and college. In middle school, junior high, and high school she competed on the tennis, basketball, and swim teams. She won gold, silver, and bronze medals in various 5K and 10K races in the northeast, including: Elmira, Rochester, Buffalo, Long Island, Connecticut, and Watkins Glen. Many residents of Alfred knew her from the AU fitness center, where she regularly trained. She could be seen running or on the treadmill until shortly before her death. In addition to being an avid runner, O'Brien trained from 2006-2011 as a natural body builder.
While at Alfred University, she majored in both Philosophy ('89) and the Fine Arts ('96). Two of her favorite professors were Tom Peterson (religion) and Mario Prisco (painting). After graduating, O'Brien had various careers, working as an executive director for the American Cancer Society and as a caseworker for Mental Health Foster Kids before starting her own practice in Holistic Health Care. She thought of healing others as a gift and one of the most rewarding experiences. She published numerous articles in her field as well as a book, "Natural Medicine: What You Need To Know To Make It Work For You" in 2003.
She became one of the few people in this country to become a board certified practitioner of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. She studied Ayurvedic medicine at the Bayville Ayurveda Holistic Center and the American Institute of Vedic Studies. She studied Chinese medicine (TCM) and Chinese Herbology through the Institute for Chinese Herbology and the Connecticut Institute for Herbal Studies. She studied with world renowned Herman Aihara and was certified in Macrobiotics at the Vega Institute in California. She was board certified with the American Association of Drugless Practitioners as well as professionally certified with the American Herbalist Guild. She was a member of the Northeast Herbal Association. During her twenty-three year long career as a health practitioner, and appeared on television, was a guest speaker on the radio and at conferences, and held numerous classes, lectures, and workshops on natural health throughout the northeast.
Before and during her career in natural medicine, O'Brien was a dedicated painter, selling her works in galleries in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. She painted a mural of athletes for Shoreham Long Island High School and another mural for a private residence in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
In addition to all of the above accomplishments, she was particularly proud of having worked to change Alfred University's benefits and policy guidelines for domestic partners, including same sex partners. This change has helped provide critical support for many who have followed.
She loved animals and volunteered at the SPCA Serving Allegany County and the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen. Donations in her name to these organizations are welcome.
O'Brien is survived by her parents, Edward and Valerie O'Brien, her two sisters, Kelly (O'Brien) Sebrasky and Shannon (O'Brien) Patton, and four nephews and one niece.
A memorial service to celebrate Pat's life is being planned for later in June. Arrangements are under the direction of Baker-Swan Funeral Home in Andover.