After battling inoperable liver and colon cancer since last May, Cranberry resident Shawn O’Donnell died Tuesday afternoon. He was 43.
A married father of four who was a longtime social studies teacher at Keystone Oaks High School, O’Donnell and his family were the beneficiaries of this year’s Cranberry CUP (Community Uniting People), a nonprofit dedicated to helping local families.
O’Donnell was present as his Pinehurst neighborhood took the CUP’s trophy during the nonprofit’s annual August softball tournament. The fundraiser features different neighborhoods and local businesses competing against each other.
On that day, the O'Donnell family, including O’Donnell’s wife, Tina, and their children, Nathan, Alex, Brayden and Mia, received a standing ovation as they arrived at Cranberry Community Park on a township fire truck.
As he spoke to the cheering crowd, O'Donnell shared the life lessons he had learned since being diagnosed with cancer. Among them were to always say "please" and "thank you," to tell your loved ones how much you care about them, and not to dwell on the small things.
"I know I sound like I'm preaching, and I do apologize, but be appreciative of what you have," he said as he briefly choked up. "You never know how much you love something until it can be taken away."
CUP founder Cathy Cortazzo also remembered how O’Donnell's eyes filled with tears as he expressed to her his gratitude for the friends and strangers who came out to support him at the tournament.
“He was so appreciative his children would have those memories,” Cortazzo said.
She called Shawn and his wife courageous and inspiring people who remained positive throughout O’Donnell's battle with cancer.
“He was so very sincere and loving,” Cortazzo said. “Tina is just unbelievable for how strong she is.”
Viewings for O'Donnell will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Devlin Funeral Home in Cranberry, according to the Cranberry CUP. Mass will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Killian Catholic Church in Cranberry.
Cortazzo said tax-deductible contributions to the O’Donnell family may be made through Cranberry CUP. For more information, visit the CUP’s website.
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