Thomas Michael O'Brien passed away in Redmond, Ore., on March 20, 2017. He was born in Torrance, Calif., on Sept. 13, 1930, to Thomas and Bertha O’Brien.
At age 12 in 1942, he moved with the family to a farm purchased at Drain, Ore., where he learned farming, raising horses, milk cows, sheep, chickens and turkeys. He loved this life as well as his horse, which he named Silver.
The family sold the farm and lived several places during World War II, finally settling in Hood River, Ore., at the end of the war. He attended Hood River High School and graduated in the class of 1948.
With the advent of the Korean War, Tom enlisted in the United States Navy in 1950, and served throughout the war. After basic training in San Diego, Calif., he was stationed at Moffett Field near San Francisco as a radioman for the MATS (Military Air Transport Service) command. During his four years of service, he was posted to the U.S.S. Kenneth Whiting, serving in war waters, which qualified him as a veteran.
Following his discharge, Tom attended college on the G.I. Bill at Portland State University and later at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., where he received his degree in civil engineering, the first member of his immediate family to graduate from college.
While he was a student, he married Glada Herman in the Mosier Christian Church in 1956. Following his graduation, they moved to Huntington Beach, Calif., and he worked for the Texaco Oil Refinery in Long Beach until his retirement. Then they moved to Las Vegas, Nev., where he invested in and managed apartment complexes, as well as taught mathematics at the Clark County Community College. He became a member of the local SPEBSQU and enjoyed singing first tenor with this men’s group.
In addition to teaching and managing apartments, he and his spouse, Glada, enjoyed traveling in their Class A motor home throughout the Pacific Northwest, returning each summer to Oregon to enjoy bountiful fruits and ocean breezes. Glada became ill and passed away in Las Vegas in 2000.
Tom came in contact with his childhood sweetheart, Barbara Meatte-Smith, and they moved to Redmond, Ore., in 2003 where he built a home and remained until his death.
Tom enjoyed many interests and hobbies throughout his life. He was a musician and played both piano and accordion. He sang in a barbershop chorus and traveled to many national barbershop concerts on the West Coast.
His passion for antique cars lead him to purchase a Model A Ford Club Coupe, complete with a rumble seat, which he kept shined and stored in a warm garage while his family car was outside in the elements. He loved electric trains and had tracks going in his garage for amusement during his leisure hours. He also gardened and raised strawberries and beautiful flowers. He collected firearms, including a Parker 21 shotgun that would set the user backward from the jolt, if not prepared.
He was an avid weight lifter and body builder who spent many hours at the gym maintaining his fitness. He was living proof that one can stay physically fit and trim throughout one’s entire life with persistence. One of his greatness frustrations in his final illness was that he could not go to the gym.
Last May, Tom was chosen to join the Honor Flight for Veterans group to tour Washington D.C. On the trip, he made many new friends as they toured the monuments and other sites. The group was honored in all the airports both coming and going for their service to our nation. Tom said it was one of the greatest events of his life.
Tom was a faithful Christian, attending and serving at Community Presbyterian Church in Redmond for the past several years.
Tom is survived by his partner of 16 years Barbara Meatte-Smith, three daughters, Kristine Rowell of Las Gatos, Calif.; Dawn Kyles of Las Vegas, Nev.; and Coleen O' Brien of Mayer, Ariz.; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; brother James O’Brien, Tucson, Ariz., (Shirley); and sister Caroline O' Brien Homer, The Dalles, Ore.; two nephews, Daniel & Michael Homer and great nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents Thomas Harold and Bertha Caroline O'Brien; his wife Glada Herman O’Brien; and granddaughter Lindsey O' Brien.
Tom was a loving devoted husband, a caring and generous father to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was a faithful and loving partner to Barbara and a wonderful, caring brother. He was a charming, outgoing person with a multitude of friends.
Although he is with the Lord now, which is comforting, he will be missed and never forgotten. In his own words, an expression he often used when not knowing how to respond to a situation, he would throw open his arms and with a quizzical expression exclaim: “What can I say?” Now, we will use those same words to show our appreciation, admiration and respect for the life of Thomas Michael O'Brien. "What can we say?”
A celebration of his life will be held at the Community Presbyterian Church, 529 NW 19th Street, Redmond, Ore., 97756 at a later date.
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