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People We've Lost: Cecelia O'Bryan loved art, reading and charity work

"She was a peaceful person."
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Posted at 4:37 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 17:50:32-04

INDIANAPOLIS — For as long as David Lannan remembers, his aunt Cecelia O'Bryan was an independent, caring and creative woman.

O'Bryan, 77, was a photographer and and an artist. She donated her time and her money to causes she cared about, including the arts, animals and programs to help the needy.

That is why, he said, the violence that led to her death is such a shock.

"I remember like, Thanksgiving she would come late because she would volunteer at the Mozel Sanders Thanksgiving dinner," Lannan said. "She did a lot of volunteer work and donated a lot of money to charity."

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Cecelia O'Bryan

O'Bryan was the victim of a homicide about three months ago.

Police found O'Bryan's body just before 11 a.m. Feb. 11 during a welfare check at her west-side home in a neighborhood near West 16th Street and Lafayette Road.

The Marion County coroner's office found O'Bryan had been beaten and stabbed or cut to death. About two weeks later, Marion County prosecutors charged a 13-year-old boy with murder in connection with her death. Prosecutors charged another 13-year-old boy with burglarizing O'Bryan's home after her death.

"She shouldn't have had to die like that," Lannan said.

The boys are being charged as juveniles. A spokesman for Prosecutor Ryan Mears said the office is seeking to try the teen accused of murder in the adult court.

O'Bryan was an independent woman in any age when most women stayed home and raised children.

She never married, never had children, and dearly loved her nieces and nephews. She graduated from Marian College (now Marian University) in the 1960s and worked for the Indiana Department of Health for 33 years before she retired.

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Cecelia O'Bryan's Marian College identification card.

In her free time, she pursued artistic hobbies including photography and art.

She made beautiful water color paintings of trees, flowers, landscapes, all on small index-card sized pieces of art paper. Stashed in her home, Lannan found photo-albums filled with hundreds of her little paintings.

O'Bryan enjoyed the outdoors, lovingly tended her garden and was known to set food out for the cats in the neighborhood.

Lannan said he fondly remembers the time when he was a kid and "Aunt Mikey" taught him how to hand color black-and-white photos. He found a photo they worked on together, two buildings behind a pier on a lake, when he was cleaning out her home. It's a picture he prizes now.

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Davide Lannan holds a black-and-white photo that he and his aunt Cecelia O'Bryan colored by hand when Lannan was young.

"She would never hurt anybody. I bet she'd hardly ever raised her voice to anybody," Lannan, 54, said. "She was a peaceful person. And you can see she spent a lot of her time doing the art and photography and things like that."

Lannan and the rest of O'Bryan's family know few details about how she died.

Her family does not know the names of the boys who have been arrested and charged. Those names have never been publicly released by police, prosecutors or the courts.

But Lannan said the family finds some peace in knowing that detectives solved the case at a time when so many homicides in Indianapolis remain unsolved. IMPD saw a record 271 homicides last year; about 60% have not been solved.

More: Two 13-year-olds arrested in killing of 77-year-old woman, burglary in Indianapolis | Woman's death investigated as homicide after Indianapolis police conduct welfare check

More importantly, Lannan said his family wants to remember his Aunt Mikey's passion for life and love of art, nature and helping others.

"We'd rather remember her alive and as a person who did creative things and helped people than to think about how she left this world," Lannan said.

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Cecelia O'Bryan in an undated family photo.

People We've Lost: These are the Indianapolis homicide victims of 2022

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at victor.ryckaert@wrtv.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.

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