CHESTER - Richard Darby O'Brien, 82, died peacefully at Peace
Hospice in Great Falls on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2004.
A public visitation was scheduled for today at Rockman Funeral Chapel in Chester. A
funeral Mass will be 2 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Cremation will follow.
Darby was born on Aug. 22, 1922, at Grace City, N.D., to Joseph and Lucy (Willoughby) O'Brien. Darby grew up in the Chester community, where he received his formal education. He enjoyed journalism, so following his graduation from C.H.S. in 1940, Darby began working in the newspaper business at Chester, and later at Valier and Anchorage, Alaska.
Darby married Elizabeth Ann Kingston on Sept. 26, 1942, at Seattle, Washi. That fall he began his active duty in the U.S. Navy, where he attained the rank of quartermaster 1st Class. He served in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater during World War II on the battleship U.S.S. Tryon and participated in seven island landings in the South Pacific. After three years of military service, he was honorably discharged in 1945.
Darby returned to Chester and became a partner with Irvin Hutchison in operation of the Liberty County Times newspaper for approximately two years. In 1948, he was elected as Liberty County clerk of District Court, a position he held for the next 39 years. In 1949, Darby purchased an insurance business from George Gau. He expanded the independent insurance agency and served as the local State Farm representative for many years. In addition, he worked as a licensed real estate agent and became co-owner of the Liberty/Toole County Title Companies. After 40 years of dedicated service to Chester and the surrounding communities, he retired in 1988.
In the late 1970s, Darby began building a retirement home near Essex. He affectionately called this home his cabin, where he spent his weekends and holidays during the 1980s. This beautiful mountain haven became a popular "getaway" for the O'Brien family and their many Hi-Line area friends. Darby eventually moved to Essex following his retirement, but continued to commute to Chester for business meetings and social events. He was always interested in "the betterment of the Chester community." Over the years he supported many important projects, namely the Liberty County Hospital and Nursing Home, the Chester medical clinic, and the Sweetgrass Lodge retirement facility. Darby was proud to have been instrumental in the organization of a local scholarship program, the Reiland Trust Fund, which awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to area students during its 27 years of funding.
Darby's health had declined these past few years. Recently, he moved to the Sweetgrass Lodge in Chester to be closer to family and friends. On Tuesday, he was transferred to a Great Falls hospital for treatment of congestive heart failure.
Darby was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith and had been an active member of St. Mary's Church in Chester throughout his life. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and V.F.W. Post No. 3997. For many years, Darby served as the local chairman and overseas contact person for the Red Cross and was active in the Alcoholic Anonymous organization. He was a staunch Democrat who enjoyed politics. He was privileged to have been appointed to the Montana Judicial Selection Committee by Gov. Tom Judge in the 1970s.
Darby had many hobbies, but his favorite pastimes were playing cribbage and attending jazz festivals.
Darby was preceded in death by his parents; former spouse, Libby O'Brien in 2002; son, Richard Darby O'Brien Jr. in 1986; sister, Dorothy Ames in 1983; and infant brother, Daniel O'Brien.
Survivors include his daughters, Judith Kathleen Cole of Geneva, Switzerland, Mary Patt Hawthorne of Sherwood, Ore., Debora Ann O'Brien of Cut Bank and Nancy Joan O'Brien of Billings; daughter-in-law, Jan (Dolezal) O'Brien of Kalispell; six grandchildren; brothers, Dennis O'Brien of Cle Elum, Wash., and Marty O'Brien of Ephrata, Wash.; sister, Mary Denice "Hike" Vassar of Spokane, Wash.; and numerous nephews and nieces.
Memorials are suggested to the Peace Hospice, the Essex QRU or the Democratic Party.