Katie Brannelly was crossing a street in her hometown of Norwood, Massachusetts with her boyfriend and another friend when she was struck on March 8, 2012. Though Katie’s boyfriend, Dom Rossi, were able to push their friend, Kerri King, back from the collision, he and Katie were hit. Evidence revealed that the 25 year-old driver, a law student, had received eight text messages immediately before the crash and was likely texting at the time.
Both Katie and Dom suffered serious injuries, and Katie spent three weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, before being transferred to a rehabilitation center. Though she was in a minimal awareness coma, Katie fought as hard as she could, making progress step by step.
Her parents, Thomas and Valerie, and siblings T. Martin (“Marty”) and Janeen, as well as Dom, who made a full recovery, stood by Katie’s side throughout the fifteen months that she was in rehab.
“Katie became our whole life. I looked forward to going in to see her every day, encouraging her, egging her on,” Tom told the Boston Herald. “I’d play peek-a-boo whenever I left, leaving the room, then looking back, hoping for a smile,” he said.
A week before Father’s Day, Tom got the best gift he could have imagined: “She gave me the biggest smile I’d seen so far.” The next day, the Brannelly family received a call from the rehab center. “Then we received the call early Monday morning saying she was gone. It was as if her last day was her best day,” he said. Katie passed away on June 11, 2013. The cause? Complications from injuries sustained in the motor vehicle crash. Katie was only 24.
Katie’s funeral was to be held on Father’s Day, until Thomas’ friends prevailed in convincing him to postpone until Monday, June 17. “A cop told me, ‘Tommy, Sunday wouldn’t be right; you don’t want to go through life remembering that you spent Father’s Day in a funeral home,’” Thomas said . “So we switched the day, but you know what? Because of Katie, every day is Father’s Day for me.”
Katie was a graduate of Norwood High School’s class of 2006, attended Merrimack College, and was a student on the Dean’s List at Bridgewater State University at the time of the collision. Katie worked three jobs, had a busy social life and was just weeks away from graduating college. She studied Child’s Psychology and was looking forward to a career helping troubled youth. Katie had a natural touch with children. Her love for children drew them close to her, and once she met them, she loved them entirely. “She would have made a wonderful mother,” her obituary read. “Her vibrant spirit brought so much happiness to everyone she touched, leaving footprints in the lives of so many. She was a very strong young woman, a fighter, who loved life and in her short time here, made sure to live life to it’s fullest.”
“I’ll see kids her age, busy with their lives, and remember imagining a big wedding for her someday, wondering what kind of mother she’d be,” Tom said. “Then I’ll see them bicycling between cars, or walking in traffic with earphones on, and I’ll have a hard time not yelling, ‘For God’s sake, be careful!’”
Contributions to the Katie Brannelly Scholarship Fund can be sent to P.O. Box 893, Norwood, MA 02062, or through contacting [email protected].
Tom Brannelly has become an advocate in Massachusetts for a ban on all cell phone use by drivers. View the Dec. 8, 2015 TV news clip of Tom testifying before the state legislature, in the story, “Police struggling to enforce texting while driving ban.”