|Born||June 3, 1985
|Occupation||Founder, Good ENERTREE|
Elsie O'Connor, born June 3, 1985, is most well known as the founder of the environmental initiative Good ENERTREE.
Family Background and Early Life
Elsie O'Connor was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado to Shayna O'Connor in 1985 . Shayna O'Connor was unmarried and at 18, a young mother having just received her high school diploma. Little is known about Elsie’s father. According to Shayna, she met him at the end of his training at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. They dated for a brief time before he relocated to his home state of Texas. Elsie has never met her father, and it is possible that he was never made aware of Shayna’s pregnancy.
At the time that Elsie was born, Shayna lived with her mother, Judith O’Connor, in a two-bedroom apartment. During Elsie’s childhood, the three were supported by Judith’s pension, and a combination of Shayna’s part-time work and welfare. Elsie’s childhood was a happy one. She spent a lot of time with her grandmother while Shayna was working – Judith suffered from osteoporosis and was irrationally terrified of motor vehicles, and so they ended up having a very close, insular relationship that rarely went beyond the walls of their apartment. Elsie remembers the Judith of her childhood as a master storyteller, arts and crafts extraordinaire, and impeccable home chef, and even took to calling her “Fairy Godmother,” as to Elsie, Judith seemed to blur the line between a real woman and a being of fairy-tale greatness and wonderment. Shayna, on the other hand, perhaps in recognition of how much time her daughter spent at home, made every effort to take Elsie to Colorado’s State Parks and forests when she had time off. The two often camped together, and went skiing regularly ever winter.
In 1994, Shayna enrolled at the University of Colorado, Colorado Spring’s Beth-El College of Nursing & Health Sciences. She paid for her education mostly with her father’s inheritance money left to herself and Judith, which had remained untouched since his death in 1979. Though Elsie did not make the connection at the time, Shayna’s decision to go back to school was partly prompted by a subtle but noticeable decline in Judith’s mental health. Five years later, in 1999, Judith was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Not more than a year previous, Shayna began commuting to work at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver.
It was at Presbyterian/St. Luke's, only a few months after she had begun working there, that Shayna was part of the team that treated many of the victims of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Shayna was deeply affected by the event, and for a period of three months attended regular, weekly therapy before applying to work at the Penrose-Saint Francis Medical Center, where she eventually was hired. This was partly to cut down on her commute, to thus be closer to and able to spend more time with Elsie, and partly because after the event she felt that Presbyterian/St. Luke’s was “haunted.”
Meanwhile, Elsie O’Connor attended public high school, earning mediocre by always passing grades. Her relationship to her mother and grandmother changed. She felt uncomfortable having people over, embarrassed that she still shared a room with her mother, and knowing that her grandmother was prone to fits anxiety when unfamiliar people were brought into the home. And yet, it was often her responsibility to stay home with her grandmother, what with Shayna’s education and eventual nursing career. Thus, as a teenager, Elsie generally stuck to a few close friends and avoided any kind of larger social scene.
Once, during the summer after her sophomore year, Elsie ran away from home and spent three days on her own in the Pike National Forest, just West of Colorado Springs. Shayna immediately called the police after coming home from work late on the first night to learn from Judith that Elsie had left that morning without her cell phone and never returned. After the first two days, the police presumed she had been kidnapped. On the morning of the fourth day since her leaving, Shayna entered Elsie’s room to find her asleep on her bed with her clothes on and her hair cut short. Though at first she refused to talk about where she had been, Elsie realized that she would have to explain herself in order to assuage her mother’s worst fears that she had been kidnapped or sexually assaulted. Elsie revealed that she had left after having a petty argument with her grandmother, and went to pick up a stash of peanut butter and jelly fixings from the grocery store before hitching a ride to Pike Forest. She started out on a hiking trail and eventually strayed from the trail and found herself alternately lost and finding parts of the forest that she recognized from her previous camping trips. She decided to return home when she ran out of food, at which point she returned home, passing her mother asleep on their living room couch on her way to her bedroom.
The incident temporarily formed a rift between Elsie and her mother, Elsie feeling restless and trapped in the small apartment, and Shayna being extremely frustrated and overwhelmed by her inability to instantly change their situation, despite her recent efforts to seek out more steady, fruitful work. After the air had cleared, Shayna and Elsie began to talk seriously for the first time about Elsie leaving home to go to college. The two made it their ultimate goal, and took road trips that reached as far as the University of California Santa Cruz, where Elsie was eventually accepted and began attending in 2002.
In 1997, Shayna O'Connor was diagnosed with breast cancer. Between 1997 and 2003, Shayna's cancer went in and out of apparent remission until she chose to refuse treatment and passed in 2003. Not long after, Elsie O'Connor's grandmother and only surviving family member, Judith O'Connor, was moved to an extended care facility in Colorado Springs.
Elsie attended the University of California Santa Cruz from 2002 - 2004 before dropping out to pursue her career goals with Good ENERTREE. She returned to school in 2005 at Bard College to complete her B.A. in Political Studies. She then continued at Bard’s Center for Environmental Studies to earn her M.S. in Environmental Policy.
Good ENERTREE began as a UCSC supported club that released monthly publications and took on small environmental projects under Elsie's leadership. Elsie founded the club in 2002 along with half a dozen friends and classmates, and initially intended to facilitate UCSC’s campus in its efforts to “go green.” The most successful project the club took on within the campus was their involvement in the planning of a segment of UCSC’s 25 acre farm, which provides organic produce to all of the campus’ cafeterias. Outside of UCSC, Good ENERTREE collaborated as advocates and volunteers with Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. Several former members of Good ENERTREE stayed on with Friends after the club disbanded with Elsie’s departure.
In 2004, Elsie met an anonymous New York based philanthropist who expressed a great interest in Elsie and Good ENERTREE. He or she promised Elsie a start up package to allow the club to advance as an independent enterprise. Not wanting to miss a golden opportunity, or perhaps because the recent death of her mother and her subsequent lack of interest in her school work, Elsie decided to take a leap of faith and moved to New York City where she officially filed for Good ENERTREE’s 501(c)(3) status.
The company went through a rough first couple of years, still having the financial support of Elsie’s enigmatic philanthropist, but having trouble gaining momentum. In 2005, Elsie decided to return to school at Bard College. This decision that not only lead to her earning both her B.A. and an M.S. in Environmental Policy, but it was at Bard that she met many of Good ENERTREE’s core employees, including her director of human resources, Doug Cojohnston. It is rumored that the same man or woman that provided most of the initial funding for Good ENERTREE also funded Elsie’s education.
While in school, with an increasingly more fortified staff, and Elsie’s own educational advancement, Good ENERTREE’s organization and impact increased exponentially. For almost a decade, Good ENERTREE has acted as an advocate for environmental concerns through grassroots fundraising on behalf of green spaces, peaceful protest, and other acts of political activism.
The Accident and Current Condition
Elsie O’Connor was admitted to the emergency room at Beth Israel Hospital at approximately 10:15 pm on February 4th, 2012, having been seriously injured by oncoming bus traffic in midtown Manhattan. Early in the morning of February 5th, she was officially proclaimed comatose due to severe head trauma, and was moved to the intensive care ward. Physical examination found significant damage to both the cerebral cortex and the reticular activating system (RAS or ARAS), and she was evaluated to have a score of 4 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, classifying her coma as severe. Her breathing and circulation are currently being maintained by machine.
The NYPD is conducting an investigation to determine the nature of the accident, and have yet to release any information.
As Elsie O’Connor has no living immediate family members, her last will and testament was looked to in order to determine who would be given Power of Attorney. The document uncovered by Doug Cojohnston on February 5th, 2012 revealed that this had been granted to Dan Martin, who will now act as her representative in making all decisions about her health treatment and current business affairs. Three days later, Dan Martin released an official statement putting the decision of whether or not to keep Elsie O'Connor on life support to a "democratic vote". According to that video, her chances of recovering in the next few days were at 20%, and by the end of the month would drop to 1%.