Born in Boston, Ed grew up in a large Watertown working class family. His father, Robert C. O'Reilly, was the former Watertown Fire Chief. Ed graduated from Watertown High School in 1971 where he was a notable member of the hockey team.
Upon graduation from High School, Ed delayed his college education and worked in a factory in order to earn enough money for college. From January 1972 until May, 1975, Ed attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he earned a B.A. in Legal Studies, Magna Cum Laude. While at UMass, Ed was also a paid Call Firefighter in the Town of Amherst, following in the firefighter footsteps of his grandfather, father and three of his uncles.
After graduation from college, Ed worked for the Massachusetts Department of Corrections at Norfolk State Prison and Park Drive Pre-Release Center. He has also been a Commercial Lobsterman and a past member of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association.
Ed served for over three years as a proud member of the Watertown Fire Department, IAFF Local #1347 until he was laid off due to the effects of Proposition 2 ½ . Later, Ed transferred to the Gloucester (where he owned a small cottage) Fire Department and proudly served as a member of IAFF #762. As a Watertown firefighter, Ed worked many hours on the Rescue Squad and later, as a Gloucester Firefighter, became a certified CPR instructor. One notable fire Ed worked was battling the conflagration that devastated downtown Lynn in the early 1980's.
As a civilian, Ed has been involved in several situations where he has used his CPR training to save peoples' lives. He is also the recipient of the American Red Cross Good Neighbor Award for saving several lives in a storm related incident on the coast of Gloucester.