Valerie Ruth (Hart) O'Brien

4 May, 19427 November, 2020

On November 7 in the company of her sons in her room at Parkstone Enhanced Care. Born in 1942 to Bruce and Pauline (McKay) Hart, Valerie’s Nova Scotian roots bridged multiple generations. She spent her first years in the Hart family home on Spring Garden Road, and lived subsequently at 6011 Coburg Road. She attended LeMarchant, Cornwallis Junior High, and Queen Elizabeth High schools, and in youth was very active in figure skating and dance, as well as riding with the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers. She earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology at Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB, and a Masters of Social Work from the Maritime School of Social Work (Dalhousie).

In 1965, Valerie Hart and Daniel O’Brien (d. 2016) were married in Dartmouth, the beginning of an elegant partnership by which each was nurtured and sustained for 51 years, and though which they enjoyed many personal and professional friendships both at home and around the world. They have two sons profoundly grateful for the love and example they have been given: Prof. Peter O’Brien (Paula Simpson-O’Brien, Halifax), and Fr. Craig O’Brien, SSC (Sackville, NB). Also in Halifax are “Gramma’s” adored grandchildren, Rachel and Gabriel.

Val’s career as a Registered Social Worker brought her work as a family and child counsellor, notably at the Addictions Research Foundation in Toronto in the 1960s; in Halifax, at the Family Service Bureau during the 1970s and at the Atlantic Child Guidance Centre through the 1980s, and then in private practice in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where Dan was President of Saint Thomas University from 1990-2006. She was Dan’s constant support in that position and in subsequent presidencies at the Atlantic School of Theology and NSCAD, serving an unscripted, but crucial role as host, social convenor, intermediary, and ‘fixer,’ as well as providing more formal service, like chairing the organizing committee of the Saint Thomas Gala Dinner. Offshoots of her couples, individual, and family therapy were numerous teaching responsibilities, expert witness testimonies, and professional conference and public service presentations. Val served a number of professional associations, including The Nova Scotia Association for Divorce and Family Mediation, of which she was a founding member and president. Her voluntary board memberships included Bonny Lea Farm, Theatre New Brunswick, the Vanier Institute of the Family, and the Muriel McQueen Foundation. Val’s perpetually bright and optimistic disposition was cherished and relied upon by many beloved friends and colleagues, and it was in evidence right to the end, when progressive dementia had quelled her lifelong appetite for constant physical motion. She jogged or participated in aerobics classes daily well into her 70s, and, along with Dan and friends, loved skiing, golfing, and tennis at home and abroad. She and Dan enjoyed extensive travel in Canada and internationally.

Val’s spiritual journey began in the church of her family, St. Andrew’s United in Halifax. In later years she worshipped as an Anglican, and, with her husband Dan, in the Roman Catholic Church. In 2005, she was awarded the Bene Merenti medal, a papal decoration. In a private ceremony, her remains will be interred with Dan’s in the columbarium of St. Augustine’s Church in Chester, NS, where they had a home to which they retired in 2006.

Through life and in her years of illness, Val was buoyed by the love of her many friends and family. We are profoundly grateful to them and to the sensitive and patient attention of her caregivers, and especially Suzanne (Zane) Rasay-Rodillas, Ariane Newton, Dr. Ken Rockwood, and the staff in Parkland Evan Hall and Parkstone Enhanced Care, Garden Court. In addition to her parents and husband, Valerie was predeceased by her sister Paula (David) Mann and sister and brother-in-law Nancy and Donald MacKinnon. As well as her sons and grandchildren, she is survived by her sister Donna Hart (Halifax), brother Reg (Pauline) Hart (Miramichi), brother-in-law Ross (Janet) O’Brien (Dartmouth), and several nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Val’s memory can be made to the Dan and Valerie O’Brien Bursary fund (St. Thomas University), the Atlantic School of Theology or NSCAD University scholarships and bursary funds, the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia (particularly its Artful Afternoon program), the Northwood Foundation (especially the Adult Day Program) or a charity of your choice. Visitation at Cruikshank’s Halifax Funeral Home, 2666 Windsor Street, Friday, November 13, 7-9pm. Funeral at St. George’s Round Church, 2222 Brunswick Street Saturday, November 14, 1pm, Fr. Craig O’Brien officiating. Protocols for masks, social distancing, contact tracing will be observed.

If you wish to view a recording of the funeral service please click the provided link below:


  • Visitation

    Friday, 13 November , 2020

  • Funeral Service

    Saturday, 14 November , 2020


Valerie Ruth (Hart) O'Brien

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kathy Smith McClellan

20 December 2020

Dear Peter, I send my deepest sympathy to you and Craig and all your family as you mourn Val's death, Peter I'm so grateful that you put me in touch with Val. She didn't recognize who I was, but it was a good conversation. I was happy to hear her voice. We had many good times together at the camp at Bedford Basin, visits on Cobourg Rd., going to the Waag. Valerie, Paula and Donna would come to my birthday lunch every summer that my Nana had for me. A small party, but we had great fun! They were my only guests as I didn't know anyone else in Halifax. We used to play characters in Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables.
God bless you all as you grieve. May Valerie rest in God's peace and her memory be a blessing.
Love to you all, Kathy

p.s. My family is Anglican and Nana took me to church at St. George's Round Church to evening service in the summers.


Wayne Hollett

27 November 2020

When I was told today of Valerie's passing some three weeks ago I reacted with deep, heartfelt sorrow. We worked together at the Atlantic Child Guidance Centre back in the 70s and 80s as close friends and supportive colleagues. Valerie's warm, kind and gentle compassion and understanding had a favourable influence on countless clients, numerous colleagues, and an abundance of friends and acquaintances. She will be profoundly missed. The world has lost an exceptional woman but the heavens have gained a beautiful angel.

Susan Bennett

20 November 2020

Dear Peter & Craig . What a lovely tribute to your mother. Valerie was such a special person, always so gracious with her warm manner and delightful laughter. As we were both social workers and mediators we spent a lot of time together. And as neighbours on Beech St. we were friends and you were classmates of PJ and Heather. And of course I knew both your parents together, your mother was a perfect partner to your father's humour and satire. You were fortunate to have such loving parents.
Warm regards to you both.

Jill Shlossberg

19 November 2020

Peter, Paula, Craig, and family
I am so sorry for the loss of this beautiful lady. I know her past few years have been a very tough time. She was such a sunny, generous, accomplished, sociable person and an immediate friend to anybody lucky enough to come within her sphere. I have great memories. My deepest condolences.
-Jill Shlossberg

Patricia Lynch

17 November 2020

Dear Peter abd Craig,

Tom and I send our deepest condolences to you both. Over the decades we have shared so many wonderful times with both of your parents. Your Mom was such an impressive woman and always so much fun to be around. I can still hear her delightful laugh.
What I valued most about your mother was her lasting friendship. No matter how much time had passed since we had last seen each other, she always managed to pick up the thread.
What always impressed both Tom and I was her love and support of your father, her pride in both of her boys, and her "over the moon" absolute delight in her grandchildren .

Patti and Tom Lynch

Mary-Jane O'Halloran

16 November 2020

Dear family members
I offer you my sincere sympathy coping with your loss of Valerie. She was so friendly and kind to me and other Waeg tennis friends by inviting us all to a delicious tea each December for her sister Donna at Pauline's house on Coburg road. She and Dan will be missed greatly.
The obituary photo portrayed her lovely smile and warm personality.
Please convey my best wishes to Donna who I hope is managing alright.
All my best wishes at this sad time.
Mary-Jane O'Halloran

Beverly Postl

15 November 2020

There will only ever be one Val ! Aren’t I one of the lucky ones who got to call her a best friend in oh so many ways over a 50 year journey!! Nothing could match the bond we formed- - our laughter, our silliness, highs and lows, and confidences as only trusted friends can share . I will cherish and feel blessed that you came into my life, and will remain in my heart always.😢❤️

And, how beyond proud and deeply moved she would be to recognize how totally committed Peter, Paula, and Craig have been to her care and comfort over these last few difficult years. In all the years I’ve shared with her, I NEVER heard anything but pride and admiration and ear-to-ear smiles when she spoke of them. But then again, who would have expected anything less from them. Hearts of compassion,
commitment, love, and fun. God bless.

Peter O'Brien

15 November 2020

Video recording of funeral service available here:

booklet with order and texts available here:

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Carole McDougall

14 November 2020

To Peter, Craig and families
I lived across the street on Beech St and knew you as neighbours. But I also saw Valerie and Dan in the community and at events as well as during times when they were with some of their dearest friends. We laughed together.

Today at the service I heard Peter say that people have been telling him about Valerie’s beauty and smile as well as her warmth. I knew those qualities as well. She was always smiling and wanting to catch up. When they moved back to Halifax I saw them at NSCAD events and know they were both so well regarded during Dan’s tenure. It was a rescue mission that they both undertook with grace, wisdom and passion.

The service today was a beautiful tribute and I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to stay and pay respects afterwards. But this is a difficult time. I hope my few words bring some comfort as you mourn your loss. Too soon to lose both of them. I will cherish her smile.
Carole McDougall

Patrick Malcolmson

14 November 2020

Our thoughts and prayers go the O'Brien family as we remember the warmth and love of Valerie, and all she brought to our lives at St. Thomas University. Please accept our deepest condolences on your loss. She was a great lady.

Patrick and Sylvia Malcolmson