"Look what I did," she would say.
Grace had wanted eight children, but got five. But tack on eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, as well as spouses, and you had a considerable crowd at those family gatherings.
"I brought all these people into the world," she would say with wonder in her voice.
Grace O'Brien Flintermann, who came from the Pennsylvania coal-mining region with its grim heritage of disaster that killed a great-grandfather, a woman who reveled in family and family get-togethers, a fighting Democrat in a Republican county and a frequent volunteer in worthy causes, died Monday of congestive heart failure. She was 82 and lived in Havertown.
"She loved every minute of being here," said Grace Culbertson, one of her daughters. "She used to say she didn't want to leave the party."
Grace's first husband, Jim O'Brien, a highly regarded writer for the Daily News, died in 1980. In 1982, she married Carl Flintermann, an Army Air Corps veteran who served with the famed Flying Tigers in China before World War II. He died in 2003.
She was fascinated by the history of the Pennsylvania coal region, where many ancestors were miners, and set about to get proper recognition for her great-grandfather, Michael Lynott, who was killed in the Twin Shaft Mine cave-in in Pittston on June 28, 1896. The disaster claimed the lives of 58 men and boys; their bodies were never recovered.
It was a struggle to get recognition for her ancestor, because she had to prove that he was one of the lost. She finally was able to get his name on a plaque at the site of the tragedy and received a key to the city in a ceremony.
Grace was born in Pittston to John and Grace McElice. The family moved to Philadelphia when she was a child. She graduated from West Philadelphia Catholic High School.
She met Jim O'Brien at a dance in West Philadelphia, and they were married in 1950. As chief editorial writer for the Daily News, Jim was known for the humorous slant of his work.
"She enjoyed the glamour of being married to a newspaperman," her daughter Grace said.
Grace worked for a time at the Strawbridge's store in Suburban Square, Ardmore, and was a cashier in the business office of Bryn Mawr Hospital before her retirement in the early '80s.
Grace was a Democratic committeewoman and a judge of elections in Haverford Township for many years.
"She was a lifelong Democrat," said her son, John J. O'Brien. "She fought the good fight. She was very progressive, ahead of her time."
Grace volunteered for the Haverford Free Library, and for other organizations, especially those involved in the environment and ecology.
Every summer, the family would pack off for Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos, where Grace spent most of her time watching the kids.
Grace was a voracious reader, and in later years enjoyed translations of fiction from China and India. She also was skilled with crochet needles, and made baby blankets for each child as he or she arrived.
"She was the most warm-hearted, generous, giving person," daughter Grace said. "She was a real classy lady, a gem. Her family was her life."
Besides her son and daughter, she is survived by three other daughters, Patricia Roden, Maryann O'Brien and Cathy Wilson; eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Services: Memorial service 11 a.m. Saturday at the Donohue Funeral Home, 8401 West Chester Pike. Friends may call after 10 a.m.
by John F. Morrison of The Philadelphia Daily News
The Philadelphia Daily News - January 4, 2012