|Knowing that death was near, Janet M. O'Hern's family gathered in her East Syracuse home
earlier this week. Though she was weak and barely able to breathe, Mrs. O'Hern spoke separately with each
of her children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers, sharing her final thoughts.
"She had something to say to each of us," said Gail E. Rizzo, one of Mrs. O'Hern's daughters. "She told me
that I should make peace with my sister, that it's a long life and that some things are easier to do than others."
On Monday afternoon, Mrs. O'Hern died in East Syracuse, the community she called home all her life. She
Mrs. O'Hern was born in Fremont, the youngest of 10 children born to Polish immigrants Anthony and
Karolina Gabruk Usiatynski. She grew up on her parent's farm and remained in the area all her life.
Mrs. O'Hern and her husband, Garry E., met on a hayride while
they were students at the former East Syracuse High School; he was two years her senior. They married
two years later, on Oct. 14, 1950. During the next 15 years, the O'Herns had 10 children. "In the '50s and
'60s, all the families were big families," Rizzo said. "Typical families in our neighborhood had four or five
children and there were very few who had just one or two children." Mr. O'Hern died in 1988.
Mrs. O'Hern retired in 1994 after working for the Marriott hotel chain, Bristol Myers-Squibb and Agway. She
belonged to East Syracuse American Legion Auxiliary Post 359. Mrs. O'Hern suffered from a weak heart all
her life, and when she was 50 she had open heart surgery in which doctors gave her an artificial aorta. A
few years ago, she caught a rare virus which severely damaged the muscles of her heart. "A heart
transplant was the only thing doctors could do, because they couldn't do anything to repair her own
heart," Rizzo said. Mrs. O'Hern never put herself on a transplant list. "I really believe she felt that an
(available) heart should go to someone younger, who hadn't lived as long as she had," her daughter
said. "She felt they were more deserving."
Mrs. O'Hern was an avid reader and enjoyed crossword puzzles and cards. In autumn, she gathered leaves
to make collages. "She'd take walks to search for the perfect leaf ... and keep her nose to the ground to find
it," Rizzo said. Despite her pain, Mrs. O'Hern never complained, her daughter said. "If anyone asked her how
she was doing, she'd say 'fine' and then she'd want to know how you were doing. She never thought of
herself; it was always the other person first."
Surviving are seven sons, Garry E. and James M., both of Huntington Beach, Calif., Daniel C. of Everett,
Wash., Patrick A., William R. and Martin S., all of East Syracuse, and Brian R. of Canastota; three daughters,
Gail E. Rizzo of Italy, Jean M. Moore of East Syracuse and Mary E. Armstrong of Syracuse; two brothers,
John J. Usiatynski of East Syracuse and Walter F. Usiatynski of Cicero; two sisters, Helen A. Marko of
Cicero and Felicia A. Galuski of East Syracuse; 14 grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Services are 9 a.m. Friday at St. Matthew's Church, Kinne Street, East Syracuse. Calling hours are 2 to 4
and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Forani & Cline Funeral Home, 206 Kinne St., East Syracuse. Contributions may
be made to Hospice of Central New York, 990 Seventh North St., Liverpool 13088.