Fountain will memorialize fallen runner

A water fountain on the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail Park that is to be dedicated to the memory of a North Arundel Hospital nurse may be installed by Christmas.

"We're waiting for the fountain to come in from California," said Kevin Murnane, spokesman for the hospital where Pat O'Brien worked for about eight years until she died while running May 7.


A cardiac care nurse and CPR teacher, Ms. O'Brien was 41 when suffered a heart attack while running along Benfield Road, near her Severna Park home.

The fountain will be by the rest stop at the intersection of the trail and Jones Station Road, where Ms. O'Brien often ran.


"I feel just very good about it -- I feel that it's something that's very appropriate. I'm going to be very proud," said Robert Walters, 43, Ms. O'Brien's husband. They had been married 14 years. Their son, Zachary, is 11.

Like the other three fountains on the trail, the new one will have two spigots, one for drinking and one for filling bottles, and is being built so that its water will flow even on winter's coldest days, said David Dionne, park superintendent.

The $4,000 fountain is being paid for with proceeds from the Oct. 4 seven-mile race sponsored by North Arundel Hospital and the Annapolis Striders, of which Ms. O'Brien was a long-standing member. The runners' organization kicked in additional money. Ms. O'Brien, a former vice president of the 7,000-member club, was among the founders of the race three years ago.

Mr. Walters said reciting the dedication that will appear on the fountain's plaque stirs him emotionally. The wording is "This fountain is in memory of Pat O'Brien, whose caring personality touched everyone who knew her."

Mr. Walters described his wife as a person who "did everything with a lot of energy," from working as a registered nurse to running to pitching in as a volunteer at Severna Park Elementary School, where Zachary was a student.

Ms. O'Brien started at North Arundel Hospital teaching patient care to the staff and cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the staff and the community.

"We taught CPR together," said Mr. Murnane. "She's the one who got me started running."

At the time, she was among the top five women runners in the the state, he said.


"She was a lot faster than I was," said Evan Thomas, a former president of the Annapolis Striders and someone who has worked toward getting the fountain. Ms. O'Brien had taken second place for women in the Maryland Marathon in the early '80s and "had done fairly well in the Marine Corps Marathon," he said.

However, about three years ago, she developed a heart problem aggravated by exercise, which curtailed her running, Mr. Walters said.

"She stopped doing her high-intensity kind of running," he said.

At a slower pace, she continued to run up and down the B & A Trail and in her neighborhood, logging 40 to 50 miles a week. She stopped for water at the trail fountain at Riggs Road, coincidentally named in memory of another Annapolis Strider, who had died of cancer.

She also switched to part-time work in the cardiac care unit at the hospital because she wanted to spend more time with her family, Mr. Murnane said.

Mr. Walters said he continues to keep track of race standings for the Annapolis Striders.


This will make the fourth fountain on the 13.5-mile hiker-biker trail. Eventually, the county hopes to have six fountains along the trail, Mr. Dionne said.