Remembering Terry O’Brien: ‘a great role model’

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 9:00 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Whether he sold you a home or coached you or your kid on a lacrosse team, Terry O’Brien is said to have had a vibrant personality.

“The community lost a good one,” former lacrosse player David Vespa said.

O’Brien and Maxine Quigg were shot and killed Wednsday afternoon at the Watertown real estate agency they co-owned.

If you ask people who knew him, they’ll tell you Terry O’Brien was a class act.

“He had an impact on everyone that he met,” said Mark Streiff, who coached alongside O’Brien.

To Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith, he was called “OB.”

“Just a great friend, a great person,” Smith said. “I can’t say more great things about him.”

To others, he was “coach.” Terry O’Brien was the head coach of Jefferson Community College’s men’s lacrosse team from 1999 to 2000.

“You know, he got red when he was mad, but a lot of times, because we were good, we didn’t see that side,” Vespa said. “It was just a fun season. We were one of the most successful seasons JCC has ever had.”

To Lou Bush, another former lacrosse player, he was the coach that took a chance on him.

“I approached him and asked if I could have a shot at lacrosse,” Bush said. “I had never played before. He gave me a shot, gave me a stick, and, yeah, I stuck it out.”

For Streiff, who coached alongside him, “he was very positive, very uplifting, a great role model for athletes. Never really had a negative thing to say about any athlete or any coach.”

Before he was a real estate broker, he was a corrections officer for 25 years.

“And the inmates respected him,” Jim Cummings, a former coworker, said. “He never played the bully card, never did any of that stuff.”

Cummings knew O’Brien before they were coworkers as well. O’Brien was one of his first students when he started teaching accounting at Immaculate Heart Central.

“A couple times I could hear other juniors and seniors talking behind my back, me as a new teacher,” he said, “and I could hear him say it every time, ‘knock it off, leave him alone. He’s not hurting anybody,’ and that’s just who Terry was.”

From everyone we’ve heard from, they all agree: no matter who you were to Terry, Terry was a friend to you.

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