Burial service, scholarship honor investigator's memory

·3 min read

May 27—LAWRENCE — Nearly a year after his death, a burial service for federal investigator Brendan O'Rourke will be held Friday. But unlike the summer weather earlier this week the forecast is calling for "cool, cloudy and damp," his wife noted.

"A typical Irish countryside day which was his favorite," said his widow, Lisa O'Rourke, of South Lawrence.

Family, friends and a host of federal agents and government employees are expected at the Elmwood Cemetery in Methuen at 1 p.m. Friday for O'Rourke's burial service.

A year ago on May 31, 2020, O'Rourke was overcome and died suddenly in a Washington, D.C. hotel room while he was talking with his wife on the phone.

Autopsy results and testing later showed O'Rourke, 48, a criminal investigator for Homeland Security, died of a massive heart attack known as a "widow maker," Lisa said.

"It was a random, one in a million, lightning strike heart attack," she said, adding Brendan had always appeared to be in excellent health and never complained of any symptoms.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lisa and her daughter, Maggie, had a private funeral then. Brendan's remains were cremated and will be buried Friday.

"It's like the shoe hasn't dropped until we do this. Now it's time to close the circle," Lisa said.

Also, to commemorate Brendan's life and government service, Lisa and Maggie decided to launch a scholarship program in his name at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, where Maggie is a rising senior.

Scholarships from the fund will be given in future years to a rising Central senior, to help pay for tuition, and to a senior pursuing a criminal justice and government career in college.

Lisa said they want the scholarship funds to go to a "middle of the road kid ... an average kid who wants to do great things because that's what Brendan was."

Brendan attended Wilmington public schools, Northern Essex Community College and graduated from Northeastern University in Boston.

However, Lisa said he was very impressed with Central Catholic when Maggie chose to enroll there in seventh grade.

"We knew Central would be the best place for her," she said.

Checks for the "Brendan J. O'Rourke Memorial Scholarship" have been mailed directly to the school.

"Central is like a family and they have certainly treated us like one," Lisa said.

After Brendan's death last year, a "blue light convoy" of 140 vehicles carrying agents, officials and employees of the federal government passed outside the O'Rourke's South Lawrence home. Lisa and Maggie stood solemnly outside, embracing and watching the convoy go by.

Brendan worked for Homeland Security for more than 20 years, traveling all over the United States and Europe.

The couple first met in 1994 at the old Claddagh Pub on Essex Street in Lawrence. They were married 21 years.

Preparing for Friday's service Lisa said, "I'm expected to be surprised 362 days later by how many people take the time to do this for him."

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.