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Kathleen O'Brien (Kathy) (Rhynard)

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Kathleen O'Brien (Kathy) (Rhynard) Obituary
Kathleen (Kathy) O'Brien (Rhynard)

Sierra Vista, AZ — Kathleen (Kathy) O'Brien joined her parents, Wayne (Fox) Rhynard and Marie (Lid) Rhynard, in the arms of the Lord, on September 1, 2013, from her home in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The second of five children, and the oldest of four daughters, Kathy was born in Pasadena, California, on April 21, 1948. An Air Force "brat," she grew up virtually "on the road," living in California, New Mexico, Alabama, New York, Virginia, Iowa, Norway, Germany, and France. She attended high school via correspondence in Oslo, Norway, and at American schools in Frankfurt, Germany, and Paris, France, graduating in 1966 with her senior prom in the top of the Eiffel Tower. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1970, and began her teaching career at South Albany High School, in Albany, Oregon, that Fall. In late 1972, Kathy moved to Montana to be closer to the family ranch in the Castle Mountains near Martinsdale, and taught middle school in Belgrade and Cascade before moving to Great Falls in 1975 to teach middle school. She then moved on to Great Falls High School, where she taught English and Drama and also coached the speech and debate teams. Kathy was a prime force in establishing statewide high school speech and drama competition; and she sang in the Great Falls Symphony Chorale, acted in numerous local stage productions, and spent most of her summers helping her parents at the ranch. On March 27, 1993, she married her loving husband Colonel Patrick O'Brien, USAF (Ret), and moved to the Los Angeles area, where he headed the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Southern California. Following an assignment to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Patrick's Air Force retirement, in 1996, they moved to Tucson, Arizona, where they resided until moving to Sierra Vista in 2002.

Kathy was a consummate teacher who gave her all to the enrichment of her students, instilling in them the ability to properly speak and write the English language, a love of literature and drama, and a solid foundation of character and discipline. A selfless giver of kindness and encouragement, she helped nurture her three younger sisters, three stepchildren, eight nieces and nephews, one grand niece, and her beloved equine and canine friends. She had an incomparable penchant for conceiving delightful surprises and clever, thoughtful gifts for friends and family; and her presents were always the first to be opened on Christmas morning. From the first moment she set foot there, circa 1954, Kath had a deep, imperishable love of the family ranch, the ranch life, and ranch people; and all were permanently etched into her heart and soul for the remainder of her life. She was as comfortable moving cattle or fixing fence as she was playing the guitar and piano, singing, fixing a car, making clothes for family or her china-head dolls, acting, or telling a good story or joke. Kath was an instinctive, unconditional giver to family, friends, and animals in need. She's already painfully missed by those she left behind; and there will forever be a void in our hearts and minds when we gather as a family, especially at Christmas when we can no longer savor her delicious Christmas whiskey bread or enjoy the annual "Rhynard Family Calendar," which she produced for over twenty years. Kath, we love you and miss you; but we'll see you again at the big roundup in the sky.

Kathy is survived by her husband, Patrick O'Brien; stepchildren, Captain Gavin O'Brien, USAF, Abbi Robinson (Matt), and Conor O'Brien; beautiful granddaughter, Nina Robinson (Abbi and Matt), whom she was within days of meeting for the first time; siblings Mike Rhynard (Alida), Nancy Dezsofi (Laszlo), Bonnie Buhl (Walt), and Mary Ann Varnum (Bob); eight nieces and nephews, and one grand niece.

A memorial event will be held in Corvallis, Oregon, on October 19, 2013; and inurnment will be at the U. S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, in the summer of 2014. Another memorial event will be held in Montana in the summer of 2014; and those wishing to be notified of the date, time, and location (TBD), should notify the family via email at [email protected]

Those wishing to materially express their condolences may do so with a donation, in Kathy's name, to her favorite charities: the Wounded Warrior Project ( or Equine Voices (

Published in Great Falls Tribune on Sept. 10, 2013
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