Cover photo for Edwin M. O'Shea's Obituary

Edwin M. O'Shea

October 17, 1977 — September 26, 2023

Edwin M. O'Shea


Edwin Michael O’Shea, 45, passed peacefully into a new dimension of life beyond this one on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, after a long endurance race known as cancer.  Edwin faced his disease with his characteristic cool head, humor, eternal optimism, and a cohort of loving family and friends. His best friend and partner Virginia walked every step of the journey by his side.  

Born in Cork, Ireland on October 17, 1977, Edwin spent his early years in Cork. Prior to seeking his fortune in the United States, Edwin received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics/Statistics in 2000 from University College Cork.  As he had not yet realized that he could make a decent living as a mathematician, he worked in an assortment of jobs and played a lot of basketball, pool and snooker.  He then headed off to the University of Washington in Seattle. His 2006 Ph.D. in mathematics specialized in combinatorics and computational commutative algebra.  This was followed by visiting positions in Kentucky, Mexico City, and Ireland.   

 In 2011, Edwin relocated to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at James Madison University. He earned tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2015.  Edwin taught many different courses in both mathematics and statistics. Among his curricular developments were a liberal arts math course in which students read Euclid's Elements and an upper-level research course in which students explored the mathematics of voting. Edwin received the Pruett Faculty Fellowship in 2016 in recognition of his "creative, innovative courses and curriculum that expand students' understanding of themselves and the world." A graph theorist by training, Edwin published on his disciplinary expertise, his pedagogy, and pieces of popular writing, such as "Proofs are like love songs."  He shared his passion for undergraduate education and connection with the wider world in workshops for faculty, and research with undergraduates. 

When Edwin wasn’t contemplating axiomatics in classical geometry, he spent hours in his kitchen baking with his children - bread, low-church banofi pie and fruit crumbles, high-church chocolate tortes. He loved quiet mornings with The New York Times and coffee. Books! Oh, did he love books. Edwin typically read three or four books at the same time, with an eclectic range of subjects including poetry, popular fiction, history, and literary classics. Sometimes, there would be some essays on Euclid just for light reading. Edwin loved people and community. He made everyone he interacted with feel valued, seen and heard. His many friends describe Edwin as genuine, empathetic, a gifted storyteller, generous, effusive, hilarious, kind.  He used his keen ability to observe the unusual and unique, translating his observations into photography.   

Edwin was, in his own words, a “good church boy” and an active member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Staunton.  He served on the church vestry, was a member of the fellowship commission and was known to provide freshly baked bread for Sunday Eucharist and church dinners.  Edwin drew much spiritual nourishment from his weekly participation in Emmanuel’s Lectio Divina prayers. 

 Edwin is survived by the love of his life and wife, Virginia ‘Gen’ Bolena, whom he married September 22, 2023; his brilliant children, who were his pride and joy, Emmy and Frank O’Shea of Staunton; step-sons Jonathan, Ian and George Henry Bolena of Staunton; parents, Ger and Martina O’Shea of Cork, Ireland; sister, Jennifer O’Shea of Cork, Ireland; and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins in Ireland.

He was preceded in death by his sister, Margaret O’Shea; grandparents, Denis and Peggy O’Shea and Michael and Barbara Noonan; and beloved uncle and godfather, Denis O’Shea. 

A Memorial Service to celebrate Edwin’s full and beautiful life will be held Saturday, September 30, 2023 at 11:00 AM at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 300 West Frederick Street in Staunton. Reception will immediately follow at Trinity Episcopal Church, 214 West Beverley Street.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given in Edwin’s memory to Emmanuel Episcopal Church; the Chorister Program at Trinity Episcopal Church, PO Box 208, Staunton, VA 24402; or to the Edwin O’Shea Memorial Scholarship for Undergraduate Mathematics Research,

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Past Services

Memorial Service

Saturday, September 30, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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