Jim O’Brien, age 93, died March 8, 2012, at Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont., after a short illness.
He was born Jan. 17, 1919, at Hardin, Mont., to Jim and Maggie Fonwald O’Brien. Jim went to Mountain Pocket Country School and finished eighth grade at Soap Creek Country School by Hardin, Mont. In the 1930s Jim joined in his dad’s farming and ranching operation to help the family until he joined the United States Army in 1940.
In 1943, Jim was assigned to the 23rd Infantry of the 2nd Indianhead Division. He went from basic training at Camp McCoy, Sparta, Wis., to Belfast, Northern Ireland, South Wales and from there to Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on D-Day plus 1.
He was advanced to the position of staff sergeant of the Infantry Platoon while there. He was wounded at Saint-Lo HILL 192 on June 19, 1944, and sent to the hospital in England. He returned to the Indianhead Division on July 20, 1944, and advanced in battle from there to the port of Brest, France.
He was on the Siegfried Line for 40 days and went through the Battle of the Bulge. He was then sent to a hospital in England with trench foot and spent seven months in the hospital. He was discharged from the Army in 1945 and returned to the States. Jim said, “I spent 4 years, 7 months and 28 days in the U.S. Army.”
During his time of service Jim was awarded the Purple Heart; Combat Infantry badges for European, African and Middle Eastern campaigns; the American Defense service medal; two Overseas service bars; three Bronze Stars for fighting in Normandy and was given an honorable discharge in June of 1945.
On Sept. 21, 2010, Jim and his best friend and chaperone Speed Schlattmann were on the Wyoming Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. in honor of their service for their country. Jim enjoyed this experience greatly.
Jim was a Golden Eagle member of Eagles Aeries #1884 and #3086; was a lifetime member of #2281 VFW in Thermopolis and belonged to Legion Post #29 in Basin.
At the time of his death, he was married to Juanita O’Brien and lived outside of Basin. Juanita and Jim met in 1968 and worked together building houses in Wyoming and Montana for Nordaas American Homes. In Basin and Greybull, Jim built the two Overland Express stores. Jim retired at age 65 and kept fishing and hunting and raising a small herd of cattle for several more years.
Jim is survived by is loving wife Juanita of the home; his best buddy, Pepper, and his children, Christy, David (Paul), Robert (Linda), Gary, Pat (Ralph), Mary (Bob) and Karen (Bruce); his daughter-in-law, Dee O’Brien; his sister-in-law, Carol; brother-in-law, Lothar; his niece, Jessica (Basti); his nephew Benjamin (Lena); two sisters, Mary Hurley and Lila Fossen, and by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his oldest son, Larry; his parents, Jim and Maggie; his brothers, Leonard and Stafford, and his sisters, Selena, Patricia, Margaret, Stella and Rita.
A Celebration of Life ceremony will be held at Eagle Aerie #3086 in Basin at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 17, 2012.
Atwood Family Funeral Directors, Inc. is in charge of arrangements.