Michelle McNamara, 46

Writer, mother, OPRF grad

Opinion: Obituaries

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Michelle Eileen McNamara, 46, died unexpectedly but peacefully in her Los Angeles, California home on April 21, 2016. Born on April 14, 1970, she grew up in Oak Park and River Forest. From an early age, she was an avid reader and a precocious writer of journals, poetry, and essays. She attended Oak Park and River Forest High School, where she worked on the school newspaper, The Trapeze. She was editor-in-chief her senior year, a title another OPRF graduate never earned, although she grudgingly conceded that Ernest Hemingway otherwise had a decent career.

She attended the University of Notre Dame, where she made many lifelong friends and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English. She then attended the University of Minnesota and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. 

Ever the independent spirit, Michelle moved to Los Angeles to be a writer, focusing on screenplays for film and television. One evening in 2002, she decided to go by herself to a comedy club. She especially enjoyed one of the comedians, Patton Oswalt, who described Irish girls as his Kryptonite. Michelle walked by him on her way out, touched his arm, and said, "Irish girls. Nice." Patton's friend told him to go after her and ask her out. He did, and they began dating shortly thereafter. Michelle and Patton were married in 2005. Befitting her independence, her wedding dress was bright red.

Michelle and Patton were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Alice, who is whip smart and funny. Their days together were filled with laughter and songs, and there is no way to overstate Michelle and Patton's love for each other and for Alice. The three were a team and they had a wonderful life full of joy. Her death is a deep tragedy, but the foundation of love she laid will serve Patton and Alice as they face difficult times ahead. Michelle will always be with them and will be a very real part of their lives.

The stories about Michelle and her kindness, loyalty and support have provided much comfort to her family and friends.

She had a very special relationship with both her parents, but particularly with her father after her mother died. In his last years, Tom McNamara followed Michelle and Patton's careers, and especially the book Michelle was writing about the "Golden State Killer." We hope and expect that the book will be finished and will include the inscription she planned, "To my Father, who believed."

Because of her spirit of adventure, joy of living, love of conversation, and desire to do good, we are blessed for the time we had with her. On an unnamed Irish tombstone is this inscription: "Those we love don't go away, they walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear."

Michelle McNamara was preceded in death by her mother, Rita Rigney McNamara, and her father, Thomas W. McNamara. She is survived by her husband, Patton Oswalt and their daughter, Alice Rigney Oswalt; five siblings, Margo Chadwick (Gerry), Maureen Stratton (Brent), Kathleen Conroy (Kevin), Robert McNamara (Suzanne), and Mary Rita Skrine (Steve); and 18 nieces and nephews.

Private services will be held in Los Angeles and a memorial service in the Chicago area at a date and location to be determined.

In remembrance of Michelle, please consider a donation to 826LA to continue to promote young writers (http://826la.org/for-michelle-mcnamara/).

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