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Patty O’Reilly finds peace through forgiveness

At the curtain closing of a recent winter ballet performance, Patty O’Reilly stepped on the wooden stage to graciously take a few bouquets from her admiring students and wave to an applauding audience.

Patty has done this for nearly a decade as owner and lead teacher at the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance, off Broadway. But for this veteran ballerina and mother of two, it isn’t about the performances or the applause, it’s about teaching, it’s about learning. It’s about doing something in life that she truly loves because, as Patty knows, life can be terribly short.

Patty is first and foremost a fiercely loving mother to her daughters, Erin and Siobhan, 21 and 17. She is also a teacher and mentor to countless girls and boys in the community who have attended ballet and dance classes at her studio. She is a women’s advocate.

But more deeply, she is a survivor, the epitome of strength, a widow before she was 40 who has lived through unimaginable grief.

In April 2004, Patty’s 43-year-old husband, Danny O’Reilly, was killed when he was struck by a drunk driver while riding his bicycle home from work. Danny had volunteered to ride his bike to work, 30 miles from the family’s Sonoma home to Kendall Jackson Winery while one of the family’s two cars was repaired. He wore a bright yellow jacket, flashing safety lights, a helmet and a headlamp, but these offered scant protection from a drunken, 47-year-old William Michael Albertson and his pickup truck.

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