Joseph Francis O'Brien, age 73, got a tractor ride to heaven on Thursday, September 14, 2017. He was born in San Diego, CA on Sept. 18, 1943 and was the first child of Joseph I. O'Brien and Franchone Johnson O'Brien. As a child he grew up in Denver, CO. The family moved to Phoenix, AZ in 1958. Joseph graduated from St. Mary's High School in 1961. Two weeks after graduating, he enlisted in the US Navy. He was an Electronics Electrician on the USS Forrestal CVA-59 Aircraft Carrier. He was a Petty Officer 2nd class (E-5) serving 3 years and 3 months. His tour of duty included the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. He was Honorably discharged just before his 21st birthday in 1964. Joseph received training in electronics and communication equipment in the Navy. He continued to use this knowledge in all of his further careers by working as an Electrician. He began working for Sperry Manufacturing in Phoenix, AZ and then the Arizona Highway Patrol in Flagstaff, AZ. While in Flagstaff, Joe met Janice Provost and the two married on Feb. 17, 1968 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Prescott, AZ. They then moved to Denver, CO and Joe worked for the Colorado State Patrol. Later they moved to Ft. Collins, CO and he worked for AT&T. Joe then began working for the Mountain Bell System in Greeley and Cortez, CO. In 1978 the family moved to the Flathead Valley where Joe worked for Northwest Telephone Systems. He then began employment with Plum Creek Timber Company in the MDF Plant and lived in Columbia Falls. Joe began a career with Bonneville Power Administration in 1986 relocating with the family to Klamath Falls, OR, and then Spokane, WA. Joe and Jan returned to Columbia Falls and he retired from Bonneville Power Administration in 2006.
Joe and Jan were married for 49 1/2 years and he is survived by his wife, Janice O'Brien, of Columbia Falls, MT and all six of their daughters and their spouses: Kathleen and Dan Kirby of North Bend, WA; Carol and Robert Pleninger of Havre, MT; Sharon and Shawn McShane of Schererville, IN; Tamara and Brian Salois of West Richland, WA; Kelly and Ed Stengel of Colorado Springs, CO; and Jennifer and Jaime Cleveland of Houston, TX. Joe and Jan have 18 grandchildren. He is also survived by his four brothers, Michael O'Brien, Dennis O'Brien, Steven O'Brien, John O'Brien, and his sister, Patricia Olson.
Joe liked construction projects. Throughout his life he and his girls built 12 houses. He was President of the Flathead Tractor and Engine Association. He enjoyed collecting, tinkering, talking about and operating tractors, antique trucks and hit and misses engines. He kept busy by spending time in his shop, working in his 1 acre garden, fishing with friends, and taking the scenic route wherever he drove. Joe was a teacher in everything he did. He was a faithful member of St. Richard's Church in Columbia Falls and liked to learn and share about the Catholic faith. Joe was a protector and helped numerous people throughout his life.
Joe fought a short battle with Neuroendocrine cancer. He will be greatly missed.
All are invited to attend services to remember Joseph O'Brien. A Rosary service will be offered at Columbia Mortuary, Columbia Falls, on Wednesday Evening (9/20) at 6:30 pm and a Funeral Mass at St. Richard's Catholic Church, Columbia Falls on Thursday (9/21) at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) or a charity of your choice. Columbia Mortuary is caring for the family. To send condolences to the family please visit Joe’s tribute page at www.columbiamortuary.com.