John W. ‘Jack’ O’Brien, 81 - Bonner County Daily Bee: Obituaries

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John W. ‘Jack’ O’Brien, 81

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Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012 10:00 am

John W. “Jack” O’Brien died peacefully at his ranch on Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. He had spent the weekend doing something very special to him, announcing the Last Horse Show of the Season. Jack was very proud and happy to watch his youngest granddaughter show in her first real horse show that weekend.

Jack was born April 1, 1931, in Denver, Colo., to John W.”Bert” and Helen O’Brien. He spent many happy summers with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on their family farm in Kansas. He’d show up each summer with a suitcase full of fireworks to share with all the other kids.

Jack lived in Denver until he moved to the Bay Area during the last part of the Great Depression. He graduated from Burlingame High School. Following graduation he entered the Army and served during the Korean War.

After honorably serving our nation, he enrolled in college where he met Elizabeth Murphy. They were married on May 31, 1958, in Hillsborough, Calif.

In September 1963, they moved to the family cattle ranch in the Hoodoo Valley, where they raised their children.

Jack enjoyed being active in Southside School activities, keeping time and score for the kids basketball games.

He was very active in the 4-H program, and was instrumental in starting the “Thank Goodness it’s the Last Horse Show of the Season Open Horse Show” to raise money for local 4-H groups.

Jack spent many happy years sitting next to Elizabeth, while she secretaried horse shows he was announcing them.

Jack and Elizabeth were partners in starting Gem Berry Products along with Harry and Betty Menser.

He was very active in the Farm Bureau Federation and held the office of president for many years.

Jack was very proud of being an American and a rancher and fought for the rights of both right up to his death.

Jack’s favorite pastime was to always be with his family whether it was watching his daughters play basketball, show cattle, show horses, he was there and loving it all.

As the family grew he would always be at grandchildren’s events, even when he had to go to the top of Schweitzer Mountain or drive between Sandpoint or Coeur d’Alene in one day in order to see the kids play football, show horses, pigs or sheep, ride drill team, play lacrosse or do a rail jam.

He and Elizabeth very much enjoyed boating on Lake Pend Oreille. Before Elizabeth’s death the two of them enjoyed traveling extensively with friends.

Jack was preceded in death by his parents, and his wife Elizabeth of 46 years. He is survived by his daughters, Anne Aizawa and husband Brent, Julie O’Brien, Mary Miller and husband Gary, and Amy O’Brien; his eight grandchildren, Emily, Ryan, Katie, Trevor, Lucas, Clint, Klaus and Gretchen; along with many dear friends.

Both Jack and Elizabeth were great examples of their faith with their quiet generosity.

A Vigil Rosary will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12. The memorial Mass will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012. Both the Rosary and the memorial Mass will be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Sandpoint, Idaho, on the corner of Lincoln and Ontario.

Yates Funeral Homes, Coeur d’Alene Chapel, has been entrusted with the care of arrangements.

Memorial donations may be made to the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Building Fund, Bonner County 4-H or the Kootenai County 4-H programs.

You may visit Jack’s memorial and sign the online guestbook at