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William Howard "Bill" O'Brien

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William Howard "Bill" O'Brien Obituary
O'Brien, William "Bill" Howard
William "Bill" H. O'Brien passed away peacefully, on September 22, 2015, at home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, in the presence of family and friends. He was 92 years old. Bill is survived by his wife, Sada, his son, Justin (Anne) and his brother, Don (Margarita), grandchildren Steven (Suzanne), and Sarah (Matthew Jacobs) and two great grandchildren, Alanna and Teagan. A successful businessman and entrepreneur in Phoenix, Bill O'Brien was co-founder of the Irish Cultural Center, ( on Central and Roosevelt in Phoenix. He was also founder of the Wendy Paine O'Brien Adolescent Treatment Center, (Wendy Center) for emotionally disturbed young people, which has helped tens of thousands of young people live happy and successful lives. A Lieutenant Jr. Grade in the Navy during WWII, Bill served in the Pacific on the Underwater Demolition Team as a "Frogman," (forerunner to U.S. Navy Seals). He saw action in Iwo Jima and Nagasaki, and was at Tokyo for the surrender of the Empire of Japan. After the war, Bill married Sarah "Sada" Paine of Boston, and he became an international wool merchant. Returning to Boston from Africa, Bill and Sada brought back three Rhodesian Ridgebacks from Africa and worked to register the breed with the American Kennel Club (AKC). After Sada O'Brien fell ill with polio, they moved to Arizona, the land of sunshine and opportunity, where she fully recovered and Bill became a real estate and business investor. His many projects included a partnership that created John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch on Camelback Mountain-a deal which allowed the partnership to donate the top of Camelback Mountain to the City of Phoenix, to be left forever untouched by development. Born in 1923 in Los Angeles during the prosperous "Roaring Twenties," Bill overcame the doom and gloom of the Great Depression and supported his family as a young serial entrepreneur with multiple business ventures. Before the age of 15, Bill had "competed" in a swimming race against Tarzan movie star Johnny Weissmuller, worked as rodeo gate keeper for cowboy humorist, Will Rogers, and came in second place among 25,000 boys who auditioned for the leading role in the 1938 movie, Tom Sawyer. (Producer David O. Selznick said, "Bill, you're perfect for the role, but you're 3 inches shorter than Becky, and you have to play Tom barefoot.") All his life, Bill just wanted to be an "ordinary Arizona Irish cowboy," and he spent his pre-college years cowboying in Rimrock, Arizona, ranching and catching and training wild horses. Bill spent almost his entire life on horseback, in the rodeo arena, on trail rides with friends, and once rode his beloved horse, Sunup, to the very top of Camelback Mountain. Bill has shared his incredible adventures over his 92-year life in a forthcoming book, "Bill O'Brien: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Arizona Irish Cowboy," to be published in fall, 2015. In lieu of flowers, the O'Brien Family suggest a donation to the or to the non-for-profit Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation, c/o, the Irish Cultural Center, 1106 North Central Avenue, Phoenix Arizona 85004, (Office: 602-258-0109).A special thank you to Home Instead caregivers (Blanca Pina, Rebecka Gomez, Sarah Nelson, Jessica Mireles, Erika Holman, Bob Oughton and Brian Goding) and Debbie Hartel, RN with Comprehensive Hospice and Palliative Care for their care and comfort to Bill. A Celebration of Bill O'Brien's life will be held November 1, 2015 10:30 to 1 pm at the Irish Cultural Center.

Published in The Arizona Republic on Oct. 4, 2015
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