George Rick O'Shea, a retired insurance executive who was active in church and civic activities, died of esophageal cancer Saturday at his Lutherville home. He was 79.
Mr. O'Shea was known as Rick, his mother's maiden name. His mother wanted to keep her family's name alive after her only brother's wife died during the flu pandemic of 1918.
Known for his sense of humor, Mr. O'Shea recalled in a recording his family made last month that his name was "a door opener in many conversations. ... I do not think my parents ever realized that if you said 'Rick O'Shea' fast, you came out with the word ricochet. I would get kidded about that, but also it was a great way to be remembered. People did not forget who I was."
The name survives with his eldest son, Dennis Rick O'Shea, a spokesman for the Johns Hopkins University, and a grandson, G. Rick O'Shea II.
A native of Brookline, Mass., Mr. O'Shea began his undergraduate studies at nearby College of the Holy Cross. His education was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army, but he returned to finish his degree in 1949.
His first job after college was managing the Baltimore office of State Mutual Life Assurance Co. While working, he went to law school part time at the University of Maryland, earning his law degree in 1956. In the 1960s, he took business courses at Johns Hopkins.
In 1954, Mr. O'Shea married Doris Marie Brown, whom he had met through mutual friends. The couple had four sons and lived in Roland Park. The three youngest boys attended Gilman School, where Mr. O'Shea served as president of the parents association.
Dennis O'Shea said his father worked hard to make himself available for "anything that was important to his sons." He was not an outdoors type, but he chaperoned camping trips they took with their friends. "Because it was for his sons, he was more than willing to do it," he said.
Before Mrs. O'Shea died of breast cancer in 1983, she expressed her desire that her husband marry her friend since high school, Mary Grace Hanly Heubeck. A year later, Mr. O'Shea did just that. His second wife survives him.
"My mother on her deathbed felt my father should marry Mary Grace," Dennis O'Shea said. "She loved them both. Mary Grace by then had been widowed for a long time, and she felt that they needed each other."
Mr. O'Shea worked for 18 years at Baltimore-based Monumental Life Insurance Co., where he was recruited in 1958 to organize the group insurance sales department. He was later promoted to senior vice president.
In 1983, shortly after his first wife's death, Mr. O'Shea moved to Pennsylvania to work for the Inter-County Hospitalization Plan in Horsham. He served first as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the statewide insurer, and then as president and chief executive officer, overseeing 250 employees and reorganizing the management structure.
From 1990 until his retirement in 1997, Mr. O'Shea served as president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association, an insurer of physicians and other health professionals. He and his second wife then returned to the Baltimore area, settling in Lutherville.
During his retirement, Mr. O'Shea served as an arbitrator for NASD, the brokerage industry's self-policing organization, and for the Maryland Health Claims Arbitration Office. He enjoyed golfing, traveling and learning to explore the Internet.
Over the years, Mr. O'Shea performed various roles in church activities. He was parish council secretary of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen and chairman of the Baltimore regional board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Another son, Timothy G. O'Shea of Richmond, Va., said his father achieved "true balance in his life," devoting time to faith, family, career and fun.
For Mr. O'Shea's last birthday, Dec. 7, his sons made donations in his name to St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, a tuition-free Jesuit Catholic middle school for low-income boys.
"Although he was ill, he got on the computer a few days later to send us an e-mail message saying how much that meant to him," Dennis O'Shea said.
Visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road. A funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, 5800 Smith Ave., with burial to follow at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.
In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. O'Shea is survived by his two other sons, Patrick A. O'Shea of Baltimore and Brendan J. O'Shea of Charleston, S.C.; two stepsons, David J. Heubeck and Peter H. Heubeck of Baltimore; three stepdaughters, Mary Gail Campanella-Snow and Mary Elizabeth Gamper, both of Baltimore, and Mary Patricia Poole of Chilmark, Mass.; and 24 grandchildren.
The family requests that memorial donations be made to St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, 740 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21202.