It is with immeasurable sadness I must report that Laurel O'Donnell passed away suddenly on May 28, 2023.
Laurel was my wife, my love, my spirit and a kind and gentle soul. This website is just one example of her many talents, creativity, intelligence, and wit. When I met her in the 1990s, she was raising her son Ryan and teaching at Magnet Middle School for the Arts in Holyoke, Massachusetts, introducing countless students (and teachers) to computer technology in her Mac lab. She started developing for the Web at that time, creating, besides a charming vanity site, voluminous websites dedicated to the history and culture of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties, Western Massachusetts in general, and History Reading. She summed it up with one title: "An Eclectic Collection of Historic and Genealogical Resources." She was a dedicated researcher, educator, and genealogist, as well as a talented graphic artist and technician, all of which made these websites rich in information and beautiful to look at.
I have resurrected from the 1990s her vanity site "Laurel's Grot World" which documented not only her observations of contemporary culture but on a variety of esoteric items from her personal collection, with an engaging story behind each -- including her account of our first meeting.
I met her in 1995 and we spent 14 wonderful years together in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Upper West Side of New York City, and Brooklyn. In 2008, seeking a new adventure, we moved to Penn Yan, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where, over the next 14 years, where we created La Belle Vie Bed & Breakfast. Her artistic taste, culinary talents, and love of people made that endeavor a critical success. We were in travelocity's top 20 Inns and B&Bs of the United States for 2013.
Most recently, we had decided to move on, selling our Victorian home and positioning ourselves to return to her passions for genealogy and knitting and mine for music. (Laurel could knit, crochet, embroider or needle felt absolutely anything and produced amazing redwork quilts and three dimensional counterpanes, not to mention innumerable pairs of socks for me.) We were so looking forward to focusing on our professional hobbies and traveling to Scotland, Ireland, Paris . . . an endless list of plans and destinations. But Fate intervened.
I will do my best to keep her websites running and resurrect those that have been on hiatus.
Her relentless compilation and rendition of genealogical, historical, and personal data, as well as her insightful observations of contemporary culture, must not be lost.
(A celebration of Laurel's life took place Saturday, September 30, 2023 in Holyoke, Massachusetts and at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. There will be future memorial events.)
Rest In Peace, Laurel. I love you forever and ever.