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Carol (Belval) O’Brien
June 20, 1934 ~ January 15, 2024 (age 89) 89 Years Old
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Carol (Belval) O’Brien, longtime resident of Fowler Road, Northbridge passed away on Monday, January 15, 2024, after a period of declining health. She was predeceased by her husband of nearly 50 years, James E. O’Brien, DVM in 2004.
She is survived by her daughter Mary Ann O'Brien-Gilmore and her husband Robert A. Gilmore of Milford, and her son Joseph O’Brien and his wife Jan (Lenahan) O'Brien of Sturbridge. She is also survived by grandchildren Conor and Chloe O’Brien and Robert E. and Molly Gilmore.
Born in Whitinsville on June 20, 1934, Carol was the daughter of Louis and Grace (St. Andre) Belval, and was sister to Louise (Belval) Chace, all of whom predeceased her.
Carol grew up in Whitinsville and spent many happy summers at the family tent camp above Scarborough beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island, with the Belval clan -- including her grandparents, seven sets of aunts and uncles, and many of her 28 cousins. The family assiduously saved World War II gas rationing coupons to make the weekly trek to Narragansett.
She was a 1951 graduate of Northbridge High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree from UMass Amherst, and a master’s degree from The Ohio State University, both in home economics and family finance.
She was an instructor of home economics at Michigan State University, where her faculty status helped enable her husband Jim to pursue his doctorate in veterinary medicine. Carol published a peer-reviewed journal article titled “The Consumer in an Affluent Society” which argued for the role of home economists as consumer and taxpayer advocates, and educators helping families navigate the “peculiar, uneven, and troublesome” aspects of a booming 1960’s consumer economy with a limited household budget.
For most of their married life, Carol and Jim lived in Northbridge, where they built and operated the Blackstone Valley Veterinary Clinic. During these years, Carol was a homemaker, wife and mother and supported Jim’s veterinary practice – next to their home on Fowler Road -- in many ways. In later years, she worked as an administrator at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Carol was an avid reader with many intellectual interests including French-Canadian culture and genealogy, architecture and design, women’s history and feminism, and both fiction and non-fiction historical literature. Consequently, she was generally found to be indominable in Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble, or any game that took advantage of her unusual dual strengths in both the verbal and mathematical domains.
Carol was very artistic in all manner of arts and handcrafts including sewing and knitting and was a particularly accomplished and prolific quilter. She dabbled in color theory, painting, drawing, and lettering and crafted beautiful cards and notes for loved ones. She was a talented cook and baker, known for her high-quality, nutritious meals, and the apple pie which she made often, but always for Jim’s birthday.
She was a big Bruins fan particularly during the Orr-Esposito-Sanderson era and enjoyed watching Ohio State football win its Big 10 matches. Carol had deep rapport with her Siamese cat, Kit, and Kit’s daughter, Little Kit, also known as “Shrimpy” for her diminutive size and favorite food. Carol initially tolerated and then learned to deeply love Hawkeye, the family’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who protected and kept her company on many a dark night when Jim worked one of his moonlighting jobs as the staff veterinarian at Foxboro trotting horse racetrack.
Carol was a devout Catholic, attending St. Patrick’s Whitinsville in her youth and young adulthood, and St. Peter’s Northbridge for the rest of her life. She was a proud, lifelong Democrat. She expressed these values in her admiration of figures such as Dorothy Day and nuns working selflessly to serve God through service to the poor.
Her funeral Mass will be held on Friday, January 19th at 10 AM at St. Patrick’s Church, One Cross St., Whitinsville. Burial will follow in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.
Calling hours will be held on Thursday, January 18 from 4 to 7 PM at Jackman Funeral Home, 12 Spring St., Whitinsville. Donations in Carol’s memory may be made to the Whitinsville Social Library at 17 Church Street, or the Whitin Community Center at 60 Main Street, both located in Whitinsville, MA 01588