Laurel O'Donnell

Laurel Life Celebration, September 30, 2023

Laurel O’Donnell, creator and maintainer of HolyokeMass.com, passed away suddenly on May 28, 2023.

Laurel was my wife, my love, my spirit and a kind and gentle soul. This website is just one example of her many talents, creativity, intelligence, commitment to education, and love of her home town. In the 1990s she was raising her son and teaching at Magnet Middle School for the Arts in Holyoke, introducing countless students (and teachers) to computer technology in her Mac lab.  She started developing for the Web at that time, creating richly informational sites dedicated to Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire counties, Western Massachusetts in general, and History Readings, sites she described as “An Eclectic Collection of Historic and Genealogical Resources.”  She was a dedicated researcher and genealogist as well as a talented graphic artist and technician, all of which made these websites not only rich in information, but beautiful to look at.

As part of LaurelODonnell.com, I have resurrected from the 1990s her vanity and blog site “Laurel’s Grot World” which documented a variety of esoteric items she had collected, with an engaging story behind each — including her account of our first meeting.

I met Laurel in 1995 and we ultimately spent 28 beautiful and exciting years together.  She joined me in Manhattan and we then moved to Brooklyn for six years.  In 2008 we moved upstate to Penn Yan, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where we created La Belle Vie Bed & Breakfast.  Her vision, taste, culinary talents, and love of people made that endeavor a critical success for 12 years.  

Most recently, we were moving on, selling our Victorian home and positioning ourselves to return to her passions for genealogy and knitting and mine for music.  (Laurel could knit, crochet, embroider or needle-felt absolutely anything and produced amazing redwork quilts and three dimensional counterpanes, not to mention innumerable pairs of socks for me.)  We were so looking forward to focusing on our professional hobbies and traveling to East Aurora, Scotland, Ireland. . . an endless list of plans and destinations.

I will do my best to keep HolyokeMass.com running and also resurrect Laurel’s other sites which had been on hiatus during our B&B commitment.  

There will be a Life Celebration event honoring Laurel on Saturday, September 30, 2023 in Holyoke, Massachusetts and at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. See LaurelODonnell.com for details.

Rest In Peace, Laurel. I love you forever and ever.

Llewellyn Lafford


Suggested Holyoke Books

Mountain Park -- The Holyoke destination we all loved.

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College, Postcard History by Donna Albino. Many Holyoke women have attended Mount Holyoke. Author also maintains an amazing MHC website based upon her personal collection.

Holyoke - Chicopee, A Perspective

Holyoke-Chicopee: A Perspective, by Ella Merkel DiCarlo. DiCarlo, a former Transcript columnist offers a fascinating compilation of her essays. Published in 1982, this out-of-print book is worth looking for in the aftermarket.


Holyoke, by Craig Della Penna. The first Holyoke book in the Arcadia series, published in 1997.

Belle Skinner Collection

Belle Skinner Collection, by Ruth Isabel Skinner. Published in 1933, this book is long out of print but copies are still available in the aftermarket.

Mitch Epstein: Family Business

Mitch Epstein: Family Business Published in 2003, available in the aftermarket. Epstein's furniture.