Feb. 8, 1927 – March 4, 2016
Jane Frances O’Brien, founding owner of O’Brien’s Sleepy Hollow wedding venue, who was known for her warmth, hospitality and homemade cinnamon rolls, died in her Elma home Friday after a long illness. She was 89.
Mrs. O’Brien and her late husband, Eugene J. O’Brien, opened the family business on a wooded five-acre site along Buffalo Creek on Ostrander Road in Elma in the 1960s.
The business started out in the grounds around a summer cottage and evolved into a catering and event venue developed by Mrs. O’Brien after the couple bought it from her husband’s family, which had owned the property since 1937. When her husband’s epilepsy forced him to leave his job at Bethlehem Steel, Mrs. O’Brien adapted her home cooking savvy to cater events so there was income to support the couple and their eight children.
“My mom worked every waking moment at that business. All of us kids worked there as well,” said Jim O’Brien, her son.
“For brides, she would put a rosary outside in a bush to pray for a good weather day. Because it is sort of an outdoor place, she would take the weather personally,” he said.
While another son, Dennis, took over ownership of Sleepy Hollow, Mrs. O’Brien continued to live in the house overlooking the grounds and enjoyed her view of the weddings.
“She would still come down to the ‘Grove’ and make sure things were done properly,” said Jim O’Brien, who referred to the family name for Sleepy Hollow.
In recent years, Mrs. O’Brien was fond of the Irish music of Cahal Dunne, who gave concerts at Sleepy Hollow. “I could see her listening to them and wishing that my dad was there,” O’Brien said of his father, who died in 2013.
The former Jane Kingston graduated from Mount Mercy Academy and got her first job at O’Toole’s Catholic Store in Buffalo.
She is survived by four daughters, Therese Voltz, Karen Klaich, Ann McKenna and Bridget Wood; four sons, Gary, James, Dennis and Patrick; 22 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 6441 Seneca St., Springbrook.