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Valerie O'Mara

December 17, 1957 ~ January 26, 2024 (age 66) 66 Years Old

Valerie O'Mara Obituary

Valerie O’Mara

 

Valerie Barrs-O’Mara, PA, of West Seattle died on January 26th, 2024, at the age of 66. She passed away peacefully with her family by her side, after a nearly six year battle with ALS.

She was born on December 17th, 1957, to George and Margaret Barrs, in Rockford, Illinois. She was raised by her mother, along with her two siblings, Kathy and Casey. Valerie and family moved to New Jersey when she was 16, where she graduated from Livingston High School. She attended Drew University, where she met her husband-to-be Michael, in her sophomore year. They met in Chemistry and wound up at the local pub after class. She graduated with a BA in Zoology in 1979. She often spoke of her college days and the lifelong memories that were made. She went on to attend Cornell Medical School’s Surgeon Assistant Program, in New York City.

Valerie and Michael moved to Seattle from the East Coast in 1981, after Valerie accepted her first Physician Assistant position with Providence.  She was a PA in Cardiothoracic Surgery for nearly 40 years, with the bulk of her career at Overlake Medical Center. Before retiring in 2019 due to ALS, she served as the Valve Clinic Coordinator with Overlake-Kaiser Permanente, a role she cherished and loved. Her career was a true joy in her life. She cared deeply for her colleagues and the many patients she served. Upon retirement, Overlake named an operating control room in her honor, in recognition of her 31 years of compassionate care and dedicated service to the Overlake Cardiac Program. She did get a kick out of having her own “control room”.

Valerie was a natural leader. She organized countless events for her children’s schools (Tilden and Our Lady of Guadalupe) including Halloween carnivals, field days, auctions, and fundraising. As a good friend pointed out, she accomplished more in one day than the rest of us get done in a month.

On March 9th, 2018, Valerie was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Even faced with this horrible diagnosis, she maintained her positive attitude and love of life. As Valerie has always done, she got to work quickly. She and her many supporters on “Team Badass” raised thousands of dollars to Walk to Defeat ALS. She served as a board member at the Evergreen Chapter of the ALS Association. She was on the organizing committee with MLB for Lou Gehrig Day. In 2020, Valerie threw out the first pitch at the Seattle Mariner’s First Annual Lou Gehrig Day, with family and friends cheering her on. As a longtime Seattle sports fan and a Mariners season ticket holder for 30 years, this was a proud moment for her.  

Valerie had many relationships she cherished deeply. Her husband of 41 years, Michael, was her caregiver throughout her long battle with ALS.  He lovingly took care of her and often said being her caregiver was “the most important job of my life.” They found humor in the day-to-day things and laughed often. She loved her three children, John, Caitlin, and Keegan deeply, and her life centered around being their mom.  She had a wonderful, close relationship with her sister Kathy and her brother Casey, who supported her and visited regularly throughout her fight with ALS. She loved her grandchildren Tilly (5) and Hugh (2) more than anything in this world. It was not uncommon to see Val, with Tilly riding on her wheelchair, going through her neighborhood or down to Lincoln Park. She also had many friendships, new and old, and she maintained those relationships seamlessly. She was fiercely loyal to friends and cherished them. As a close friend said, “She had a way of making each one of us feel like her favorite”.

It is hard to sum up who she was because she was such a force. She meant so much to so many. She was thoughtful, smart, generous, optimistic, and non-judgmental. She was quick to smile and had a great laugh. She always followed through with what she said she was going to do. She would often let the “f-bomb” slip when telling a (longwinded) story. She was simply the best and will be missed immensely by her friends and family who loved her. She fought courageously and beat the odds, living six years with ALS. She battled this terrible disease with grace and strength until the very end. Her granddaughter Tilly says it best, “Grammy can walk again”.

She is survived by her husband Michael, her children John (Kelly), Caitlin (Dale) and Keegan, her grandchildren Tilly and Hugh, her sister Kathy (Tony), her brother Casey (Liz), her half siblings Lance (Kathy) and Kerry, and her sister-in-law Kathleen (Gary), as well as her cousins, aunt, and many nieces and nephews.

There will be a Celebration of Life on February 24th at the Hall at Fauntleroy in West Seattle at 1pm. We also plan to celebrate her in Pennsylvania in the Spring.

Memorial donations may be made in Valerie’s honor at either:

ALS CURE Project: www.alscure.org/donate

The ALS Association: 19717 62nd Ave S, Suite D101, Kent WA, 98032

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