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Patrick O'Reiley(1924 - 2013)

O'Reiley, Patrick 01/31/1924 ~ 08/12/2013 SAN DIEGO -- As thousands of people each day marvel at the wonders of the Zoological Society of San Diego and the San Diego Air and Space Museum, as small thank you is in order for Patrick O'Reiley. For nearly four decades, he originated or helped carry out the fundraising efforts of both prominent community institutions to enhance their value to visitors. In the early morning hours of August 12, 2013, he passed away quietly at his long-time home following an extended bout with prostate cancer. He was 89. Born in New Haven, Ind., on January 31, 1924, he was part of the generation whose values of thrift, saving and industry were forged by the Great Depression. He took part in his 1940 high school senior class trip to New York and Washington, D.C., by hitchhiking. Drafted in 1943, he served as a mortar gunner in the 42nd Infantry Division during World War II. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his initiative and bravery during a battle near Sessenhiem, France, in January 1945. Married to Anna Popa on New Year's Day in 1947, they would stay together until she passed away in 2009. After finishing his education with a B.A. from Indiana University in 1947 and a master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1949, the young couple drove to California and decided San Diego was the perfect place to settle. After different positions with the city and county governments, he was hired as the Zoo's personnel director in 1962. He started the development department in 1975 as the first director. Although his title changed over the years, he always worked with people who wanted to financially support the Zoo's mission. He frequently led photo expeditions at the Zoo's Safari Park, highlighted by Ivan the giraffe always coming toward the truck carrying visitors to greet him. He retired in 2008 at the age of 84; his 46-year tenure made him the longest-serving employee in the Zoo's history. He then began development efforts for the Air and Space Museum as a volunteer. This allowed him to continue to work in Balboa Park, always a favorite place for him, and for his lifelong interest in aviation. While he raised money, he also counseled others on the importance of returning to the community, reinforced by example. He made gifts to KPBS, the San Diego Humane Society, the San Diego Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, among others. His range of free-time interests included dogs - he owned several poodles - performances by the San Diego Opera, being a private pilot and playing tennis regularly into his late 80's at the Balboa Tennis Club. He and Anna also went on annual tours of Europe for many years. He is survived by his son, Tim, a journalist residing in Las Vegas. His other child, son Mikal, is deceased. The Zoo will host a commemoration of his life and legacy on Thursday, August 22, starting at 4:00 p.m. in the Ronadvel Room just to the right of the main entrance. Donations may go in his name to the Zoo or the Air and Space Museum.


Published in U-T San Diego from Aug. 18 to Aug. 24, 2013
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