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Resident Spotlight Sarah O’Brien

March 23, 2022

Sarah was born on June 14, 1928 near Enfield, N.C., a small town near Rocky Mount. Her family owned a farm. It was there, in her formative years, that she grew to love plants and watching nature. She went to Leggett Elementary School for grades 1-10. However, because her parents believed her education would be more thorough in the city, they sent her to Rocky Mount. Sarah lived with her aunt during the week to attend Rocky Mount Senior High School. She would return home for the weekends. Upon graduation from high school, she attended Richmond Professional Institute which is today Virginia Commonwealth University. Ms O’Brian successfully obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Sarah Meets Frank

After graduating from Richmond Professional Institute, she got a job in Raleigh teaching art. It happened to be a traveling from school to school position. It was at one of these schools that a teacher friend told her that there was a handsome young man that Sarah should meet. The handsome young man turned out to be Frank O’Brien. Frank was working as a sports writer for the The News & Observer at the time. It was not long before the two were married. When a sports writer position became available at the Wilmington StarNews, Frank took the job and moved his family to Wilmington.

The O’Brien’s had two children, Sara Pat and Mike. The couple first moved into an apartment on Oleander Drive, then to Lake Forest, and finally to a home on Cyprus Drive near Greenfield Lake. It was at the home on Cyprus Drive that Sara’s green thumb worked overtime. She is known to have given away many plants that she grew from scratch to her friends. Carolyn Augustine called them ”Sarah’s Gardens.”

Sara taught art for years in New Hanover County, ending her teaching career at Roland Grise Middle School. Jean Bullock, a member of Sarah’s church invited her to join the Garden Club in 1985. She later served as recording secretary under Elma Porter who was club president at the time. When Sarah was an active club member there was never a meeting that she did not bring several of her plantings to be judged. She probably obtained more blue ribbons than most any other member.

The words “she has a green thumb” describe perfectly Sarah O’Brien, Brightmore resident and Cape Fear Garden Club, Inc. member. The first words she spoke in her interview were” I love gardening and watching nature.”

We Meet Sarah

Of course, Sarah continues to love plants and nature in her apartment at Brightmore Independent Living. Her porch is full of plants, so many, in fact, that her daughter said that when Brightmore wanted to power wash Sarah’s porch, it took her a large block of time to move the plants from side to side on the porch so the power wash would not touch them.

Sarah was excited to relate a project she has undertaken at Brightmore. She grows monarch butterflies from the larvae, to caterpillars, to chrysalis, to the hatching of the butterfly. She has gotten many of the residents at Brightmore excited to be present to release the monarchs once they hatch. She says it is a unique experience to actually help in releasing the beautiful creatures and many Brightmore residents are excited be a part of the experience. Sarah O’Brien is a quiet and gracious lady who delights in sharing her love of nature with her friends. She has much “gardening” wisdom to share and a visit to see her is a rewarding and delightful experience to say the least.

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