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Published April 24 2011

Sports Bar co-owner dies at age 36

FARGO – A few years ago, while visiting Minneapolis for a Vikings game, Shannon O’Shaughnessy and a friend found themselves in an elevator with the opposing coaching staff. The friend was giddy at the close encounter; O’Shaughnessy was unimpressed.

“They don’t play for the Vikings,” she scoffed. “Who cares?”

A die-hard purple-and-gold fan, O’Shaughnessy wasn’t shy about giving the opposition the cold shoulder. Most everyone else got a warm laugh and a drink (Ice Hole mint schnapps, if you let her pick) from the co-owner of Fargo’s Sports Bar.

O’Shaughnessy died in Minneapolis on Thursday at age 36 after an 18-month struggle with a genetic organ disease. Those who knew her remember a woman who employees called a friend and who friends called a sister.

“Shannon was a beautiful person inside and out,” said Megan Zayic, a longtime friend. “She was kind of the glue that really kept everybody together.”

A Fargo native, O’Shaughnessy became a fixture on NP Avenue a decade ago, when she bought a share of Sports Bar, then co-owned by her father. It became an epicenter for a group of a few dozen Vikings-crazed friends who showed up every Sunday to jump for joy during the high moments and commiserate during the lows.

O’Shaughnessy joked of an agreement to marry Vikings linebacker Ben Leber. For O’Shaughnessy, that plan may not have been far removed from reality: Sports Bar employee Dave Braaten says she once dated former Minnesota running back Michael Bennett.

“I don’t know how that happened, but it happened,” he said.

Bennett signed the wall of Sports Bar. So did a number of other athletes, including former Twins great Johan Santana. Whenever O’Shaughnessy bumped into stars, “She could talk them into anything,” Braaten said.

It didn’t hurt that at 6 feet tall and with a winning smile, she stood out in a crowd. And while she lived and breathed sports, O’Shaughnessy was no tomboy.

“She was definitely a girly girl,” said Josh Flores, another employee.

Her college degree was in fashion marketing and management. On Monday nights, O’Shaughnessy and Braaten would go to war over what to put on TV in the bar: pro wrestling (his pick) or “The Bachelorette” (hers).

In the face of her health problems, “never once did she complain about where she was,” Braaten said. “She was one hell of a fighter.”

On Saturday night, the bar put out word to patrons to show up in their Vikings gear in O’Shaughnessy’s honor. Pictures of her embracing her beloved beagle, Lola, dedicated “in loving memory,” went up on the walls.

Another picture, laid out for friends to sign, carried dozens of handwritten messages – thank-yous, prayers, goodbyes.

“You brought me to Sports Bar,” wrote one mourner, “and now you’ve left us far too soon.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502