A Letter to the Community
To my friends and neighbors of Girdwood,
On December 26th 2016, my sister, Shannon O’Leary and her husband Adam Clausen were killed on Hwy. 26 near Warm Springs, Oregon. They were driving from Bend to celebrate at late Christmas with my mom and dad in Portland with their 4-year old son Felix, my nephew. They were hit from behind by an anxious motorist. The collision forced them into the oncoming lane where they collided head-on with Robert and Rachael Burke of Reno, Nev. The Burkes also had a baby in their car, who survived with minor injuries. Miraculously, both children involved survived virtually unscathed. Shannon, Adam and Robert were all killed at the scene. The man who caused this tragedy escaped with minor injuries.
This event is quantifiably the worst thing that has ever happened to my family. However, since this tragedy, so many people in my sister’s life have come forward only to solidify my belief in her strength, her kindness and her sheer genius. To honestly express the inverse of this event, I must say that I have felt love and gratitude on an immeasurable scale from so many sources.
For example Girdwood, so many of you have come forward with your condolences and offerings. It warms my heart dearly to feel the love and warmth from my town. Many of you have donated to Felix’s education fund. And just so you know, Felix is in a loving home with a new little brother and baby sister (on the way). Because of his amazing new family and your donations, Felix still has a chance at a bright future.
I was further shocked when I came home to find that the children of the Girdwood Chapel offered tithings to assist me and my family financially. Additional donation boxes were set up at my shop and Thriftwood. I only found out about this generosity after getting back.
My sister was a Professor of Physics at Lewis & Clark in Portland. The University will be conducting a massive service for Shannon. All of the cash donations that I have received will go towards my tickets to Portland for this event.
I want to thank you all for your generosity and support. It is not taken lightly. I’m honored to be a member of your community. Thank you all to the stars and back.
Try not to be in a hurry. Drive safely.
John Micheal O’Leary (Gator)