Thomond Robert O'Brien Sr.

St. Paul, Minnesota


O'Brien, Thomond Robert, Sr. 74, beloved husband, father, brother and grandfather, lifelong St. Paul resident, philanthropist and entrepreneur, died early Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at the University of Minnesota Fairview hospital after a battle with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and lung cancer. Tomy O'Brien was born October 17, 1933 in St. Paul, MN, and graduated from St. Paul Academy, in the Class of 1951. He earned his B.A. in Political Economics from Williams College in 1955 and his M.B.A. at the University of Minnesota Graduate School in 1962. He served honorably in the U.S. Army as a cryptanalyst, stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1955 to 1958. O'Brien was a leader in many of St. Paul's civic and cultural institutions, serving as Emeritus Trustee of the Science Museum of Minnesota, Honorable Lifetime Trustee of the Minnesota Historical Society, Chairman of the Fort Snelling State Park Association, Director of the Minnesota Opera, Director of the Bach Society of Minnesota, board member of the Ramsey County Historical Society, and President of the University Club of St. Paul. In recent years, as he courageously fought his disease, he worked to support the related research facilities at the University of Minnesota, and funded the O'Brien Biobank for Lung Research at the Center for Advanced Lung Disease. As President of the Alice M. O'Brien Foundation, he, with other O'Brien family members, provided vital financial support to many charities and nonprofit institutions, including William O'Brien State Park, named in honor of his grandfather. He was committed to the preservation and vitality of his native city, one example being his work as a founding member of the citizens group RIP-35E, which led a spirited fight in the 1970's and 1980's against the extension of I-35E through the historic heart of St. Paul. He rescued the Commodore Hotel and the Angus Hotel from deterioration in the 1970's. When a fire and gas explosion ravaged the Commodore Hotel in 1978, O'Brien restored it as condominiums, lending momentum to the renewal of the Summit Hill area of St. Paul. In building and operating the Commodore Squash Racquets Club in 1976, he combined his love of St. Paul with his passion for the game of squash. For three decades, O'Brien played, taught and promoted squash in Minnesota, and brought the greatest internationally recognized players of the game to St. Paul. O'Brien had a tremendous zest for life. He established the Pied Piper Toy Store, (he had seven children of his own). He donated land in Marine-on- St. Croix, where he enjoyed a summer home, to the University of Minnesota for an observatory and, characteristically, he became an amateur astronomer and friend to the scientists who operated it. His love of history was expressed in scholarly articles published in Minnesota History and Ramsey County History and in a vast collection of historical literature on Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France. He was an active genealogist, following his research to Florida, Georgia, Perth, Ontario and Colonial Connecticut. O'Brien is survived by his wife of fifty wonderful years, Alvina Walsh O'Brien; his sons and daughters: Thomond Robert O'Brien, Jr. and Elizabeth Fridley O'Brien, Marine-on- St. Croix; Timothy William John O'Brien and Francine McNiel O'Brien, St. Paul; Michael John O'Brien and Amy Sundberg O'Brien, St. Paul; Caragh Mary O'Brien and Joseph LoTurco Storrs, Connecticut; Alvina O'Brien Hart and Richard Philip Hart, III, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Laura O'Brien Smith and Bradner Smith, St. Paul; and Nancy O'Brien Wagner and David O'Brien Wagner St. Paul. He is also survived by his grand- children: Lauren, Thomond R., III, and Brooke O'Brien; Katherine, Maura, and Claire O'Brien; Alice and Lucy O'Brien; William, Emily, and Michael LoTurco; Rebecca, Thomas, and Julia Hart; Harrison Smith; and Nolan and Francine Wagner. He is also survived by sisters-in-law Rosemary Walsh Geist, Nancy J. Walsh, Sharon Gallagher Walsh, Nancy Waite- O'Brien and Sandra Beck; and brothers-in-law, Harry M. Walsh and Robert W. Geist. He also leaves behind thirty beloved nieces and nephews, five godchildren, grandnieces, grandnephews, and many cherished friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, William John and Katherine Smith O'Brien; sister, Julia O'Brien Wilcox; sisters-in-law, Eleanor Kennedy O'Brien and Angela Walsh Wozniak; brothers, William J. O'Brien, Jr. and Terence G. O'Brien; and brothers-in-law, Richard S. Wilcox, Richard A. Walsh, III, and Donald D. Wozniak. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, December 15, 2007 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Burial will follow at Resurrection Cemetery. Visitation will be held at the O'Brien home on Friday, December 14, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., and at the Cathedral of St. Paul on Saturday, December 15 at 9:30 a.m. Services are being arranged by O'Halloran and Murphy Funeral Home, 651-698-0796. Memorials may be made to the Minnesota Medical Foundation at the University of Minnesota for funding of the O'Brien Biobank for Lung Research at the Center for Advanced Lung Disease, 612-625-1440.
This obituary was originally published in the Star Tribune.

Guest Book

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His impact on the lives of present and future generations cannot be measured or imagined. What a gift to all.

Our prayers and sincere condolences to Alvina and family.
Bridget O'Brien & Mark Nelson

Adieu, good friend and doubles partner. You will be sorely missed.

Rudy and I send our sincere condolences to the O'Brien family.

Heartfelt best wishes to the O'Brien clan from your old backyard neighbor, remembering Tomy from The Mikado, from Fourth of July orations, and in the spirit carried forward by his and Alvina's great children.

We offer our love and sincerest condolences to Alvina and all the O'Briens. There will simply never be another Tomy. We will miss him terribly. But what a legacy he left in the O'Brien family!! Thank you Tomy.

"Let!! let. Point to St Peter." God love him. What a wonderful man.

Condolences to the O'Brien family. Tomy will be remembered fondly as a friend and squash mentor. He will be missed on and off the court.

Many happy memories from us both,sympathy to all the family

Tomy was a good and wonderful man. I know God has a place for him in his heart. He will be missed.