Visitation at Main Service
Obituary of Harriet M. O'Brien
Harriet Magdalene Szymanski O'Brien died on October 27, 2023 at Centre Care at the age of 101. She was born December 5, 1921 in Mount Carmel, PA., the eleventh of thirteen children born to Walter and Magdalene Szymanski. She was the last surviving member of her siblings. Her parents were immigrants from Poland and raised their family in a home rich in Polish traditions and faith.
On May 12, 1945 she married Harold J. "Pat" O'Brien in Washington DC following his service in World War II as an amphibious tank commander in the South Pacific. He preceded her in death on July 16, 1997. She is survived by her children, Patricia Mutzeck and Daniel O'Brien (Laurel); her grandchildren Alison Ayers, Kristina Helmerich (Stephen), Kelly Nelson (Matthew), Katie Franzheim (Albert) and Patrick O'Brien; her great grandchildren Karl Helmerich, Luke Nelson, Anton Helmerich, Zoe Nelson and Samuel Nelson. In addition to her husband, parents and siblings, she was preceded in death by her son-in-law John Mutzeck.
She graduated from Mount Carmel High School in 1939. She earned an associate's degree from Penn State in 1977. And in 1981 she earned her BA in Art History from Penn State at the age of 59. She was awarded the Golumbic Scholarship Prize from the College of Arts and Architecture in 1980. Pursuing her passion for her studies in art history, she served as a docent at the Palmer Museum of Art for many years.
She had an impressive professional career beginning at the Pentagon during World War II where she served as an administrative assistant to an Air Force General. While balancing her roles as wife and mother, she served as the executive secretary to the president of HRB (Haller, Raymond and Brown) and later to the plant manager of Corning Glass.
Giving back was basic to her character. As a forever Penn Stater, she served on the Faculty Women's Executive Board and as a tour guide at the Hintz Family Alumni Center. In the community she volunteered at Centre Peace, the Volunteer Action Center and the Saint Vincent DePaul Thrift Store.
Her favorite pastimes were bridge, golf, ice skating, skiing, reading and Penn State sports. She was a prolific knitter of Irish cable knit sweaters for the entire family including the Cabbage Patch dolls. She and her husband traveled extensively through the United States, Canada and Europe. Her family and friends will remember her as a fabulous hostess for wonderful gatherings at her home or at tailgates at Beaver stadium. And she was famous for dancing the polka across many dance floors with a partner or solo.
She loved her family with all her heart and will always be in the hearts of those she loved. Her family and friends will remember her for her loyalty, generosity and fun-loving spirit.
Her Funeral Mass will be on Monday, November 6, 2023 at 10 am at Our Lady of Victory Church, 820 Westerly Pkwy, State College with Rev. George Jakopac officiating. Friends and family will be received from 9 am to 10 am at the Church. Following the Mass, all are invited to a celebration in the Community Room of Our Lady of Victory.
In lieu of flowers, please consider directing a gift to Penn State's Department of Art History, online via raise.psu.edu/ArtHistory or via mail to: Donor and Member Services, the Pennsylvania State University, 329 Innovation Blvd, Suite 311 State College PA 16803-6606, with the note: SCCAH-in memory of Harriet O'Brien.
The family is grateful for the loving and excellent care Harriet received at Centre Care.
She will rest in peace at Centre County Memorial Park.
Online condolences may be entered at www.kochfuneralhome.com.
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