By Sharon Semanie
For the Piqua Daily Call
Learning his “ABCs” at an early age has come full circle for Rob O’Leary of Piqua.
As an educator and father of eight, the personable Piqua native is celebrating Father’s Day in style with his growing family, which includes — in alphabetical order — Alanna, 15; Brendan, 13, Colleen, 11, Donavan, 9; Evan, 7, Finian, 5, Griffin, 3 and Hannah Rose, 1 ½. And, yes, there’s his attractive wife of 18 years, Rosemary, whom he describes as a “saint.”
O’Leary is clearly beloved by his growing brood who voluntarily sum up what their dad means to them this Father‘s Day weekend.
“He’s a good teacher,” chimes in Brendan. “He teaches us things about life, keeps us on the right path, always has time for us and makes us respectful.”
Interjects Donavan who’s seated on a sofa next to his dad, “He coaches us in all sports, teaches us discipline and is the best dad in the world.”
Griffin, seated in a nearby corner on the floor, sweetly interjects “I love him.”
Love is very much in evidence as the O’Leary clan gather together during Dad’s big interview. And what’s the best part about being a father?
“Love. I can have all the people in the world mad at me but when I get home (from work) there are plenty of hugs and kisses. Other than getting married to Rosie, that’s the best thing ever,” he said.
The handsome Irishman comes from a long lineage of O’Learys who have made love, hard work, faith, dedication and dependability their trademark over the years. The son of Mike and Barb O’Leary of Piqua, Rob was the youngest of five children who walked one block from his home to St. Mary School, which eventually merged to Piqua Catholic School when he was in fifth grade. A 1995 graduate of Lehman Catholic High School, he initially contemplated a criminal justice career just like his great-grandfather who was a chief of police in Sidney. He eventually changed his mind, however, and opted for a degree in education so that he could help youngsters “before they went wrong.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Dayton and Wright State University, O’Leary eventually landed a job in the Vandalia-Butler school system in 1999 where he taught fourth grade and also coached junior high basketball and scouted high school standouts. He was awarded a fellowship to study for a master’s degree and, while teaching in the classroom, “doubled up” on administrative courses to advance his career. At the time, Rob and Rosie were parents to their first child with another one on the way. Oh, by the way, he was also training for a Columbus marathon which, he laughingly reminisces, he completed in about four hours.
After receiving a master’s degree he later obtained his principal and superintendent certification and was hired as principal at Piqua Catholic School in 2003. This was followed by a stint as director of curriculum and staff development at Upper Valley Career Center, a job which he “loved” and eventual return to Vandalia-Butler where he serves as director of pupil services within the 3,100-student district and is jokingly referred to as “that guy with a lot of kids.”
The O’Learys don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory “eight is enough.” They thoroughly enjoy raising a large family and support each other at the myriad basketball, cross country, baseball, football and track meets along with the piano lessons scheduled each week. Their 12-passenger van can easily rack up lots of miles whether it’s transporting to the O’Leary kids to school at Piqua Catholic School or Lehman Catholic High School, filing into the front pew at St. Mary Church Sunday Masses and numerous sporting events scheduled in between. Maintaining an iPhone calendar, soliciting grandparent support and carpooling help maintain calm on a typical day.
O’Leary lovingly describes his wife as a “saint,” explaining they dated for two years while college juniors. At the time, Rosie was a student at Steubenville University and, as Rob describes it, “I had a cousin who was always trying to fix me up with someone and brought Rosie home one Fourth of July for a family reunion.”
The chemistry obviously worked, suggests Rob, who jokes “I should get an honorary degree from Steubenville since I spent so many weekends going there to visit her.”
O’Leary’s father, now 74, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and debilitating arthritis. Despite his health concerns, the youngest son credit’s his dad’s work ethic, dedication, faithfulness, dependability and humor as traits he’s inherited along the way. The elder O’Leary, who was formerly employed as a respiratory therapist at Piqua Memorial Hospital, along with his wife “sacrificed” to afford their five children a Catholic elementary and high school education and support them through their college years.
As he glanced around the room watching his own children, Rob O’Leary suggested his best advice to his children is “Life is beyond yourself. Bring God to others and live in a way that you’ll see God when you pass this world.”
In addition to passing out fatherly advice, O’Leary serves as an active role model getting up at 5:30 a.m. daily to exercise or put in a 5-7 mile weekly run. In addition he’s an avid Notre Dame football game, enjoys hunting and camping with his family.
Tears welled up in the eyes of Rosie O’Leary as she conveyed what her husband means to her and the children.
“He means the world to us. He takes care of us and is really good with the kids. He dedicates his life to us, is loyal and hard working. He’s our protector and makes me feel secure. He’s a good example to our kids and we just love him.”
A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H … could there be an “I” or a “J” or more in this wonderful family’s future? It’s pretty obvious that there’s enough love to go around. Let’s wait and see.