Memories of Bob O’Brien recalled
When Bob O’Brien lost the 2001 race against Jim White for Kent mayor, he didn’t view it as a loss.
“I came in second,” the steadfast public servant said in a videotaped statement about the race. “I thought that was pretty good for the first time I ran for public office.”
O’Brien, whom voters elected in 2005 to the Kent City Council, shared that comment in a 2007 videotape family and friends played at a reception following a memorial service Thursday for for the late city councilman at the Holy Spirit Parish Catholic Church in downtown Kent.
O’Brien, in his third year on the Council, died April 30 after a long battle with cancer. He was 76.
The comment by O’Brien on losing the mayor’s race didn’t surprise his son, Tim O’Brien.
“That was an example of his self-deprecating humor,” said Tim O’Brien, 39, of West Seattle, at the reception following the service. “He had a very dry humor.”
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, Council members Debbie Raplee, Deborah Ranniger, Les Thomas, Tim Clark, Ron Harmon and Elizabeth Albertson, and numerous city employees were among those who attended the service and reception for O’Brien, a Kent resident for 30 years.
Five members of the Kent Police and Fire Departments marched in with the American flag, the state of Washington flag and the City of Kent flag and placed them to the right of the church altar to start the half-hour memorial service.
After the opening song, “On Eagle’s Wings,” there were readings from the Bible from Revelations, 1 Corinthians and John.
The Rev. Michael Michael Ryan shared during his homily that O’Brien’s journey on earth had ended and that can leave family and friends of his very alone.
“But Bob will be right here all around town,” Ryan said. “His spirit will be here. Bob’s spirit is here.”
After the homily, everyone sang, “How Great Thou Art,” before Holy Communion. The service ended as everyone sang, “Amazing Grace.”
At the reception following the service, friends and relatives shared hugs and memories about O’Brien. A table displayed photos of O’Brien with his wife and children and numerous photos of O’Brien from his days as a young father to a city councilman were shown on a large screen.
O’Brien became a regular at Council meetings even before he decided to run for mayor.
“Rather than complain, he showed up at Council meetings,” said Tim O’Brien, a warehouse manager in Sumner. “Then people told him because of his care about the city, he should run for mayor, so he did it.”
At family gatherings, Tim said Kent city politics always came up in conversations with his father. Bob O’Brien served on the Public Safety and the Planning and Economic Development committees.
“I didn’t understand how much he cared until family reunions and I heard him talk about the issues,” Tim said.
The City Council paid tribute to O’Brien at the start of its May 6 meeting. Each Council member shared his or her thoughts about the steadfast city official, who often cast the lone vote against issues and didn’t hesitate to share the reasons for his vote.
“At the Council tribute, I found out that even though other Council members did not always agree with him, they had respect for his opinion,” Tim said. “I really got a sense from the tribute of how much it meant to him (to serve on the Council).”
Born July 14, 1931 in Bronx, N.Y., a borough of New York City, O’Brien excelled in sports in high school and played two years of basketball at the University of Connecticut as a 6-foot-6 reserve center in the early 1950s. He even had a one-day tryout with the Boston Celtics.
“He told me he got hit in the face with a Bob Cousy pass and that was his one-day tryout,” Tim O’Brien said.
O’Brien served in the Korean War from 1954 to 1956 as a Signal Corps (communications) First Lieutenant. After his honorable discharge, O’Brien earned a masters of business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He worked for 30 years in the logistics business before he retired.
O’Brien met his wife, Dagmar, at a casino night in Seattle for the Tip Toppers Club, a social club for tall people. Dagmar is 6-2, only four inches shorter than her husband. They married May 11, 1968 at a church on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.
Outside of politics, O’Brien served terms as chairman of the Kent Kiwanis Club and the Kent Youth Soccer Association.
“He truly cared about society and his family,” Tim O’Brien said. “People complain and don’t do anything, he was the opposite.
Survivors include his wife, Dagmar, of Kent; son, Tim, of West Seattle; daughter, Jennifer, of London, England; and daughter, Josefin, of Los Angeles.
An urn committal service was held Friday for O’Brien at Tahoma National Cemetery, just east of Kent.
Memorials can be made to Operation Homefront, which provides emergency assistance and morale to U.S. troops, their families, and to wounded soldiers when they return home. For more information, go to www.operationhomefront.net.
Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.