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Reverend David James O’Leary


Reverend David James “Boppa” O’Leary, 66, husband of Debra Jean (Arnold) O’Leary, and the former pastor of First Presbyterian Church, North Shore in Ipswich, died Friday, September 13, 2019 in his Dorchester home following a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

David was born December 2, 1952 in Cambridge, to Charles J. and Irene E. (Twomey) O’Leary. He and Debbie were married May 24, 1975 in West Springfield.

He secured B.A. degrees in both English and Psychology from Tufts University (’74), M.A.R. and M.Div. degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary (’82), and a D.Min. from Covenant Theological Seminary.

David was the beloved, founding pastor of Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Reading, PA from 1981 until accepting a call in 2002 at First Presbyterian Church, North Shore in Ipswich, where he retired from active ministry in 2012. His ministry, both public and private, was characterized by the concern to “Take God seriously without taking ourselves too seriously.” He preached Christ, not merely as his main point but much more as his present Savior. For him, to preach was to worship; to hear his preaching was to be led in worship. He never lost this gift, even as in his final years he became “the preacher without a voice.” The corruptive effect of Parkinson’s was for him the gift of a final appeal to all who knew him that the quality of his life which many had cherished was not of himself but from another. In his death, as in his life, he proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

David inherited with his siblings a deep love of literature and a Chestertonian wonder at the world, so that he could laugh with Thurber as well as Shakespeare, and never fail to appreciate the anomalous comedy that was his life. One always to find the bone in the boneless chicken, he once remarked after catching a fly between his thumb and forefinger, “that fly has worse Parkinson’s than I do.”

David noticed his neighbors without noticing that he did. He served out of a greater sense of others’ needs than a sense of his own ability. Upon seeing his wife Debbie carrying a basket of laundry, he offered eagerly from his wheelchair, “Can I get that for you?”

In addition to his wife Debra Jean he is survived by a son, Rev. David Thomas O’Leary and his wife Kelly of Pennsylvania; three daughters, Elizabeth Anne Peck and her husband Robert of Tanzania, Kathryn Marie Baldanza and her husband Charles of Dorchester, Bridget Eileen Jackson and her husband Nathaniel of West Roxbury; a brother, Charles O’Leary of Colorado; four sisters, Janice Campbell of Falmouth, Linda Moriarty of Duxbury, Maureen O’Leary of California, Nancy O’Leary of Cambridge and fifteen grandchildren. He was the brother of the late Kathleen O'Leary-Lefferman.

His funeral service will be held 10 am Saturday, September 21 at First Presbyterian Church, North Shore, 179 County Road, Ipswich, followed by interment in the New Highland Cemetery, Ipswich and concluded with a reception at the church. Visiting hours will be held in the church Friday 5 to 8 pm. Arrangements are under the direction of the Whittier-Porter Funeral Home of Ipswich.

Memorial donations may be made in memory of David J. O’Leary to support patient care at VNA Hospice & Palliative Care, Fund Development Office, 199 Rosewood Drive, Suite 180, Danvers, MA 01923, or via www.vnacare.org/donors.

David’s family extends a special thanks to all who have helped to love and honor him well.

To an open house in the evening

Home shall men come,

To an older place than Eden

And a taller town than Rome.

To an end of the way of the wandering star,

To the things that cannot be and that are,

To the place where God was homeless

And all men are at home.

-       From G. K. Chesterton’s “The House of Christmas”


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