O'SHEA - Robert M. Robert M. O'Shea, 87, died on April 7 after complications following a fall. Bob was devoted to his six children, Michael (Donna), Brian (Sheri Rosenow), Robert (Margaret), Brendan (Nancy), Clare (William Ferguson), and Annemarie (Peter Rittling) O'Shea, his 13 grandchildren, and most of all his wife of 51 years, Suzanne Carlson, who died in 2009. Bob was a devout Catholic, a sociologist, and a teacher; he was selfless, compassionate, and had a great sense of humor. He was endlessly curious about the world, eager to discuss history or politics or the latest Bollywood film, and he always thought the best of people.
Born in the Bronx in 1934 to Michael and Agnes O'Shea, Bob had one sibling, Bill, who also died this year. Bob attended Regis High School, a "transformative" experience that he talked about all his life. At St. John's College, where he earned a degree in medieval history, his friends called him "Book-a-Day O'Shea" because of his love of reading; Tom Leckey, his best friend from childhood, once remarked that he would've ended up in a different sort of gang if it weren't for Bob, who convinced everyone to go to the library on Saturdays. Bob often reminisced about taking the subway into Manhattan for a nickel as a kid and spending his weekends in museums.
Bob earned a master's and doctorate in sociology at Catholic University, in Washington, D.C., where he met Suzanne. He worked as a sociologist in the dental division of the U.S. Public Health Service before joining the SUNY Buffalo faculty as an assistant professor in the dental school's behavioral science department. He spent the rest of his career at UB, with positions including director of graduate studies in the department of social and preventive medicine. Bob was a beloved teacher and mentor; his former students remember his kindness, wit, and generosity. "He was one of the most interesting and broadly intelligent and knowledgeable teachers I ever had," one former student recalled. "He was a philosopher in the most positive sense of the term." In honor of Bob's 20 years as the first director of graduate studies in the epidemiology and environmental health department, the Robert O'Shea Travel Award, a fund to support students who want to present their research at conferences, was established in 2005. Much of Bob's research focused on the sociology of dentistry, including dentist and patient stress and the role of dentists in smoking cessation; his community service efforts included work with the American Lung Association and the Western New York Coalition Against Smoking.
Bob was very engaged with the arts. As a student he wrote plays and performed, once starring in "Julius Caesar." He liked to laugh about the time he got a role in a musical but was then politely asked to speak the lyrics rather than sing them. Later in life, he took voice lessons and became a vital member of the St. Benedict church choir. He wrote poetry, listened to opera, and created many watercolor paintings. He had a vast collection of books, covering a wide range of topics-from social theory to Spanish primers to how to stop procrastinating-and always knew the perfect book to recommend.
Faith was fundamental to Bob's life and no doubt the key to his happiness and tranquility. He was able to remain optimistic and upbeat in even the direst situations. "Remember," he often said, "we are only here for a short trip."
The O'Shea family will be holding a memorial mass for Robert O'Shea on July 24 at 11 a.m. at St. Benedict Church, 1317 Eggert Rd., Amherst, NY. The mass will also honor his sister-in-law Mary Carlson, who died in May 2020.