RecPlex Brings Friends Together to Honor Classmates

RecPlex Brings Friends Together to Honor Classmates

When a group of friends from the Class of 1997 heard that renovations to the RecPlex couldn’t be completed without alumni assistance, they saw a chance to honor their friend William “Billy” O’Brien who passed away 13 years ago.

O’Brien was known by his ’97 classmates as the “1-2-3 kid” on campus because he always greeted people by holding up his fingers in a “1-2-3” pattern. His fun-loving nature drew people to him.

“He was very funny, witty and sarcastic. You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth,” said Allison Garrigan ’97.

O’Brien, a communication major, was very active in student life, doing play-by-play for Stags basketball games on WVOF, running intramural groups and playing varsity golf. He loved being in the RecPlex.

“Billy was truly ‘the king of all media’ at Fairfield,” said his friend and classmate John Walsh ’97.

After graduation, the friends stayed close — visiting each other for parties, weddings and other milestones. Then, in 2003, O’Brien suddenly passed away from a brain aneurism.

Erin Rumsey ’97, who lived at the “Girl’s Dupe” house on the beach while she was a student, remembered the last time she saw O’Brien at a fellow alumna’s wedding. He promised that day to attend all future Fairfield weddings.

“Every time one of the girls from “the Dupe” got married (including myself) I thought of Billy and wished he could be there celebrating with us,” she said.  Now, that group of more than 15 friends has banded together to honor O’Brien with a named basketball backboard and locker number “123” in the newly renovated RecPlex on campus.

Andrew McMahon ’13 and Frank Aquino ’13, roommates from the Class of 2013, were similarly inspired to aid in the RecPlex renovation. The pair has rallied more than 50 participants to donate and will name a water cooler for their friend Patrick Cooney ’13, who passed away in 2015 after a fight against leukemia.

“Raising the money is a great way to gather our mutual friends, and Cooney’s friends and family from elsewhere to continue to remember him and honor his life in an impactful way,” McMahon said.