Celebration of Life planned February 24 for Valerie O’Mara, 1957-2024

That reader photo shows more heart lights in Gatewood – which we learned, after featuring two others, are not just for Valentine’s Day; some homes are displaying hearts in honor of a beloved neighbor who recently passed away. (Added – here’s neighbors’ video of more of them.)

The family of that neighbor, Valerie O’Mara, had in fact sent us this remembrance, as they prepare for her Celebration of Life on February 24:

Valerie Barrs-O’Mara, PA, of West Seattle died on January 26, 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 her 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 Mariners’ 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 1 pm. 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: alscure.org/donate
The ALS Association: 19717 62nd Ave S, Suite D101, Kent, WA, 98032

(WSB publishes West Seattle obituaries and memorial announcements by request, free of charge. Please email the text, and a photo if available, to westseattleblog@gmail.com)

15 Replies to "Celebration of Life planned February 24 for Valerie O'Mara, 1957-2024"

  • T Rex February 2, 2024 (9:29 am)

    Valerie was our block watch “captain” and kept us all informed of anything out of the ordinary in our neighborhood.  I spoke to her a few times, seeing her outside on sunny days when I was checking my mail. A very kind person. Although I did not know her well, this is very sad news.  My condolences to the family.  

  • Infantry72 February 2, 2024 (9:36 am)

    Thank you for sharing about Valerie, she sounds like she lived a great life! 

  • DBurns February 2, 2024 (9:57 am)

    Valerie had the most amazing energy!! I met her at OLG back in 2000 and she actually introduced me to one of my dearest friends. She was a wonderful model of a school parent and I’ve never forgotten her and the love she showed all those around her. Always smiling, always ready to laugh and joke around – always loving her family. So sorry for your loss but please know that she is always with you and her precious grandchildren. Grief is the result of loving someone. It’s hard, take care. 

  • Ryan Caple February 2, 2024 (10:57 am)

    Val brought so much joy everywhere she went. Her laugh and smile will be forever missed. We love you, Val!Caple family 💯❤️💯

  • Stacy February 2, 2024 (12:43 pm)

    Valerie, you comforted us during my stepdad’s heart surgery.  You have always been full of love and giving.  Your life was a blessing to so many of us.  Thank you for your loving and caring nature. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your unwavering support.  You are what God intended when They created humans. Rest in Peace.  #olgprayforus

  • ACG February 2, 2024 (4:24 pm)

    Thank you for sharing about her amazing life.  My condolences to all who knew her and loved her.  

  • Lisa Plymate February 2, 2024 (5:54 pm)

    We are relatively new to the O’Mara’s immediate neighborhood, having moved just 2 houses north of them 4 years ago.  Even though we only knew her a few years, she became a wonderful friend.  She was truly inspiring, fun, witty, warm, and caring.  Her organizing skills were unparalleled, even from her wheelchair. She knew how to put together fantastic annual block parties.  Our hearts are out there along our street in her honor, to help comfort all who knew her and to share our affection and admiration for all she gave to our community..

  • Diane Crestanello February 2, 2024 (6:16 pm)

    As s nurse at overlake I had such great respect for Valorie. We all loved her. Diane Crestanello

  • Eva Pavoni February 3, 2024 (7:48 am)

    What a tremendous loss.😪
    Valerie, you were such a gift to so many people. I loved working with you at Overlake. Your smiles and laughter are etched in my heart. ❤️

  • Caroline Erickson February 3, 2024 (7:06 pm)

    Thank-you for sharing about Valerie’s remarkable and meaningful life.My sincere condolences to her family.  Caroline Erickson

  • Marcee Stone-Vekich February 4, 2024 (1:34 pm)

    I remember her well at Tilden and at our girls’ athletic games. She was a dynamo, quick with a laugh and a joke. Our deepest condolences to her family and close friends. This is a huge loss for the community but unimaginable for her family. Much love from Maryland. 

  • Maria Aleandra February 8, 2024 (5:18 am)

    I had the beautiful privilege of getting to know Valerie through our efforts in planning Lou Gherig Day. I feel so very lucky to have been in the same virtual rooms as her. Vibrant, optimistic, loving and fiercely dedicated! I always admired her. I will miss her ❤️- Maria Aleandra, Miami FL (ALS Caregiver)

  • Kathy Casella February 18, 2024 (8:10 pm)

    I am Valerie’s sister and still trying to accept the reality of our lives without her. It broke my heart when it came time for me to leave Seattle and return home to VA after she had passed. I will never forget the touching display of love on view in her entire neighborhood the day I departed; HEARTS EVERYWHERE, up and down the street, on lawns, in gardens, in trees, on cars, in windows, some even lit at night. I was grateful and comforted to see this tribute to the impact she had on her local friends and neighbors. Thank you so very much,
    Kathy Casella

  • Rockatansky February 20, 2024 (10:04 am)

       Valerie was simply one of the most charismatic people I’ve ever met.  She will be deeply missed ! 

  • Huff Margie February 22, 2024 (11:30 am)

    Val such an epitome of grace, kindness, knowledge, faith , humor and love of others. It was apleasure to serve with her at Overlake in Cardiac Care. Blessings to her family hold your memories close.

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