John Jens (Jack) O’Brien, a long time resident of Chinook, died peacefully on February 22, 2019 in Chinook with his family close by. Jack was delivered by a midwife in Chinook on September 18, 1922. He was raised by his Dad and his O’Brien aunts after his mother died in a kitchen fire accident when he was 2 years old. His father later married Alice Overcast, who was a wonderful stepmother. He felt he had a very happy and interesting childhood. He attended Chinook Schools and developed his love of woodworking in Floyd Bowen’s shop classes. After Jack graduated in 1940, he worked at construction and enlisted in the Montana National Guard the fall of that year. The story was that the 163rd Infantry Division went for their annual two week training and came back 4 years later. During the World War II deployment, Jack served in the Pacific Theatre, was honorably discharged and came back home to Chinook in August, 1945.
Jack and Elisabeth Mosser were married April 23, 1946 after 4 months of courtship and were happily married for 72 years and 10 months. They had 4 children, Melody, Jean, Kay and Kevin. Jack changed his profession from carpentry to retail store management and worked in Chinook, Scobey, and Dayton, Washington. The family moved back to Chinook in the mid 1950’s and he continued his career in retail. He bought the Ben Franklin Variety store in Chinook in 1958 and renamed it O’Brien’s Variety. Every kid that was ever in that store probably remembers the 10 foot candy counter that had bins of every kind of candy imaginable. The glass on that was probably cleaned multiple times daily because of all the little noses and hands of the kids that would gaze in there with rapture. He later bought the Blaine Lumber Yard on the highway and ran that until his retirement in 1984.
Jack was an involved member of the Chinook community. He was active in Toastmasters, Lions Club, American Legion and other civic organizations. In later years he enjoyed spending time at the Chinook Senior Center. He worked with Lloyd Sweet when Mr. Sweet donated funds to start the Sweet Nursing Home and the Sweet Scholarships and served on the Board of Directors of both for many years. He was involved as a leader for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts when his children were involved. He was instrumental in building the Boy Scout cabin in the mountains and involved in building of the gazebo on Main Street of Chinook. A favorite activity of his was golf. There was a lot of volunteerism in those days, and he and many of the members donated hundreds of hours at the course. They improved the old clubhouse, planted trees, built the rain shacks and many other projects. When the old clubhouse burned in 1997, Jack organized the building of the new clubhouse. Jack was an avid reader and loved challenging his mind with all types of word puzzles and complicated woodworking projects. Thousands board feet of lumber ended up in Jack’s garage to create wood projects that he enjoyed making.
His family feels he was the best husband and Dad ever. Jack was a kind, thoughtful and honest gentleman with a great sense of humor. A quote that we think fits is “The best and most noble life is one lived in such a way that while they were here, they brought love, comfort and joy to all.” In honor of his Irish heritage, our wish to you is “ As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never go the wrong way.”
Jack is survived by his beloved wife of 72 years, Elisabeth, his daughter Melody and her husband Jim Cook of Issaquah, Washington, his daughter Kay and her husband Dan Johnson of Chinook, and his son Kevin O’Brien of Renton Washington, his sister Charlotte and her husband Web Thackeray of Sidney, his 8 grandchildren, Russell Cook, Angela McNeill and Melissa Ericsen, Aaron and Kelly Johnson, and Dalton, Shea and Kasidy O’Brien, and 5 great grandchildren, and nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents and stepmother, his brother James, his daughter Jean and his great granddaughter Emilee Carr. A memorial service will be held at a later date.