Alice Lafaye O’Brien

Published 12:50 pm Monday, August 17, 2015

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July 28, 1919 – Aug. 13, 2015


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NATCHEZ- The life of Alice Louise Lafaye O’Brien, who passed away Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Vicksburg, was celebrated by her family with prayers of thanksgiving and joyful remembrances in the chapel of Laird Funeral Home on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015.

Mrs. O’Brien was interred beside her beloved husband in the Natchez City Cemetery following the funeral service under the direction of Laird Funeral Home.

 Alice O’Brien was born July 28, 1919 in New Orleans, the daughter of Rayel Walter and Catherine Ring Lafaye.

She was the granddaughter of George and Marguerite Rayel Lafaye and John and Louisa Walther Ring. She graduated from Sophie Wright High School in 1936 and was conferred the bachelor of music degree by Loyola University in 1940. She studied piano with Corrine Mayer in New Orleans and Claire Moritz in Natchez. She was a piano accompanist to her friend and college classmate, Marguerite Piazza, in musical recitals at Loyola and beyond the university campus.

 On October 17, 1941, she married William Thomas O’Brien, Jr., who served in the U. S. Navy during World War II. In 1946, the O’Briens established their home and Dr. O’Brien’s dental practice in Natchez. She was her husband’s dental assistant until he retired in 1991. The couple was married for 69 years at the time of Dr. O’Brien’s death in January 2011. She resided in Natchez for 67 years and relocated to Vicksburg in 2013.

 Mrs. O’Brien encircled her husband and children with immense love and devotion, and with music of august composers, including Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy and Scott Joplin, which she played exquisitely on her piano.  She was a superb cook, having drawn from the culinary expertise of her mother and aunt, Alice Lafaye Freret, who were professional caterers and dietary service administrators at Sophie Newcomb College and Spring Hill College. She taught piano lessons to children and adults for 30 years, and retired from teaching at the age of 80. 

 She was active in the Natchez community as a chorister and organist at her church, St. Mary Basilica, a chorister in the Natchez Choral Society; a faculty member of the music department of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Natchez Branch; a founding board member of the Community Concert Association; a piano accompanist for musical programs at Cathedral School; a piano accompanist at the Kiwanis Club meetings and “Gypsy fortune-teller” in this club’s Halloween carnivals for Natchez families; a Cub Scout den mother; and a Natchez Garden Club stage worker in the Natchez Pilgrimage Tableaux.

Mrs. O’Brien was a faithful communicant of Saint Mary Basilica and an avid reader of religious writers, in particular, Thomas Merton and Father John Powell. She and her husband audited classes at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and were especially fond and appreciative of their courses in the Hebrew and Christian Testaments instructed by Rabbi Arthur Lebowitz and the Rev. James Herndon. She was instrumental in organizing the first Knights of Columbus bus trip from Natchez to a football game at LSU, which became an annual event that the O’Briens enjoyed with their close friends and fellow parishioners of St. Mary Basilica for many years.

Alice O’Brien’s heart was resplendent with love for God and her family, and with joy in praising God and uplifting others with music.

Mrs. O’Brien was predeceased by her husband; her son, Dr. William T. O’Brien III, her brother, Jack Lafaye, her daughter-in-law, Sherry C. O’Brien; and her son-in-law, Robert L. Henry.

 She is survived by her daughters, Lynne C. Henry of Calabash, N.C., Barbara J. Brock and her husband, Chip, of Naperville, Ill. and Kathleen A. Letaw of Stone Mountain, Ga.; her daughter-in-law, Barbara L. O’Brien of Natchez; her sons, David R. O’Brien and his wife, Pam, of Germantown, Tenn.; and James S. O’Brien of Vicksburg; her 17 grandchildren and her 15 great-grandchildren.

 The O’Brien family is warmly grateful to Mrs. O’Brien’s distinguished caregivers: Dr. Paul Pierce; Vicksburg Convalescent Home Staff, Camellia Hospice Staff and Ms. Takisha Morgan, R.N.  The O’Briens wish to thank Mr. and Mrs. Richard Laird and Staff of Laird Funeral Home; and Mr. Tony Nagurski, Director of Natchez City Cemetery, for their kindness and compassion to the family.  

Memorial gifts supporting community clinics that provide health care and mental health/social services to musicians, regardless of their ability to pay, may be made to: Blues Musicians Benevolent Fund (mail to Dr. Edgar Smith, Mississippi Blues Commission, 5934 Paddock Place, Jackson, MS 39206); (or) New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation (mail to Bethany Bultman, NOMAF, 1525 Louisiana Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70115).

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