Charlie Leonard O’Brien, Sr., age 76, left his life of wonderful memories to us all at 4:15 pm at his ranch home in Blanco, Texas, a very special place he loved to be. Charlie and Barby Harris O’Brien settled on 16 acres in June 2000, between the two Hill Country cities of Blanco and Johnson City. With friends and family, they built a homestead for livestock with resort-like country living, including his gardens and fruit trees. All who visited at the many functions hosted at the ranch were always impressed with Charlie’s hard work as they could see many items he built by hand.
Charlie joined his afterlife family and friends in Heaven after suffering with his diseased lungs for years. He never gave up the things he loved to do. “Charlie worked a day and a half everyday of his life”, expressed his stepson Adam Young of Plano, Texas. “He always worked hard on and off the job.” Charlie continued to be the drugstore rancher, raising his goats, sheep, llamas, turkeys, chickens, peacocks, pigeons, ring neck doves, and of course, his beloved Jack Russells, Aimee Marie O’Brien and Clarabell Vogel, which were at his bedside along with his dearest neighbor and friend Larry Kepler and wife Barby.
Charlie came from a large family: sister, Mary Mikeman of Canyon Lake, Texas and brothers George and Leo, all preceded his death. His sisters Hattie and JT Hanson of Flint, Texas, Margaret Ann and Richard Dworaczyk of Santa Maria, California, and Frances and Jim Dickey of Poth, Texas survives him. His mother Elizabeth Lee Zoller was from Nixon, Texas, where Charlie was born, and his father Otis Naomi O’Brien came from Cisco, Texas.
Charlie and first wife Dorothy Zoller had a family of four children who all but Debra Sue Graham of Huntsville, Texas, survives him in his death. Debra Sue left grandsons Randie and Jennifer Jones and 3-year old great-grandson Christopher of Bryan College Station, Texas, daughters Becky and Bill Doeppenschmidt of New Braunfels, Texas with grandson Cason Doeppenschmidt and Stacey Littlefield and 18-month old great-granddaughter Aniston of San Antonio, Texas, and Kelly Pierce and Morris Wade (Mo) White with granddaughters, Chelsea and Rusty Jones of Elkhart, Texas and Megan Pierce of Tyler, Texas and Halie Pierce and Adam Poling of Palestine, Texas with 2-month old great-granddaughter Triniti Grace. His only son, Charlie, and Shannon O’Brien with granddaughters Kirsti and Summer Hope and brother Charlie all survived their dad and grandfather known as Paw Paw.
Charlie leaves second and third wife Jackie Young and stepchildren Adam and Connie and their children, Ashton and Clayton, of Plano, Texas and Lisa and Fred Hollins of Houston, Texas.
Barby Harris Richman O’Brien became the fourth and final wife of 13 years in May, 1998 in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her children Jacob Edward Richman, of Dallas, Texas and grandson 10-year old Ethan Edward of McKinney, Texas and daughter D. A. Elaine Richman and granddaughter 6-year old Renee Elaine Kirby of Allen, Texas.
Charlie had many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews who loved him dearly and will cherish his laughter and amazing stories. And for Cousin Lois Marie Janah of Pearland, Texas, who waltzed across many dances floors with him, his boots are now resting. He will especially miss his beloved Ricky Ellison of Lake Jackson, Texas, who lived with his family as a young boy and grew up to make Charlie very proud. Rick spent the past five years coming to the ranch to spend time with Charlie and fiddle with various projects.
Charlie enjoyed his daily Blanco Café visits. That front table will not be the same as folks come in. There was always a sitting order and he always faced the door to greet everyone. This unique group of friendship decided each day that the world would be okay for another day as they shared their stories and (gossip) and, of course, their opinions.
There were many, but some of his favorite people have been in the Blanco area for years and welcomed him 11 years ago as one of them. They looked out for him. When he didn’t show up for more than a few days, the phones were ringing or visitors were at the ranch checking on him. If he mentioned something he was going to be working on around the ranch, it wasn’t long after that his buddies were there to help. These are very special men and women in a community that most would be envious to have. A few that meant the world to him, Tom (opened face breakfast taco) and Tina, Tommy, Wallis (grilled biscuit with honey), Al, Mark, Bobby, Jerry, John, George, Tony, Butch (who he wasn’t looking forward to seeking too quickly) and so many more. For Tom, don’t get lost going to Goliad without me. And more than just coffee buddies and friends, remarkable neighbors, Larry Kepler and Eddy Easter. “They don’t come any better than that”, Charlie said. “Fine men!” And last by not least, the Café staff, how ever did you put up with him? Thank you is not enough to say.
While Charlie never served in the armed forces, he was a true hero. A Texas hero. His life consisted of building the refineries and power plants that led the industry ground floor. He was a card-carrying member of the American Insulators Local #87, from Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Austin, Texas and surrounding areas. He retired while working on a job for Motorola in Austin. He was also a union licensed plumber. He dropped out of school during the sixth grade to help raise money for his family and worked as a bag boy for HEB grocery store in Corpus Christi. He worked various jobs with his dad and ranchers on many south Texas ranches including the King Ranch and Chapman ranch. He began plumbing at the age of 19, where he started as a plumber’s helper at Winston Plumbing in Corpus. He worked for Godfrey Myane (yes the father of Jerry Myane from Blanco), Fuller and Austin, Gilmon Insulation, Woodson Plumbing, C & R Plumbing, Amish Blinds, and Thorpe Insulation. Charlie worked around the Rockport area at Carbon Black/Ashland refinery. He also worked at Champlain, Southwestern, Koch and Barney Davis CPL, manufacturing plants, schools, and various other industrial constructions. He loved working with many of his old-timer insulators and dear friends, Jack and Howard Hoover, Jack Westbrook, Leonard Dunnahue, Marvin Wuenche, Leory Verdine, Red Ford, Roger Muckleroy, Tommy Samples, Danny Borderline of Liberty, Texas and special friends and co-workers Larry Doyle, Austin, Texas and David Eldridge of Lampasas, Texas.
After his retirement, Charlie began a lawn and tractor service, which he so much enjoyed. He had customers in the surrounding Hill Country area of Drippings Springs, Johnson City and Blanco. He would sometimes come across a baby doe and put in his truck and bring it home. He raised many stray deer and turned them in to household pets in the neighborhood. His favorite was Suzie: she and his Jack Russell Aimee and Barby’s 28-year old black golden retriever ran together each day throughout the entire neighborhood from ranch to ranch. They would sit with Charlie on the front porch most days and share his animal crackers and beer. What a sight to see!
Charlie was loved by many and by most! He always knew a lot about a little and a little about a lot, and yet nothing about much and much about nothing!
A special old-fashioned horse-drawn wagon ceremony will take place at Croft Funeral Home in Blanco, Texas, Saturday, March 12, 2011 at 10:30 am with an honored luncheon at the Old Blanco County Court House on the Square following. All are invited.
Honorary Pallbearers are: Randie Jones, Cody Jones, Cason Doeppenschmidt, Charlie O’Brien (son), Jacob Richman, Charlie O’Brien (grandson), Ricky Ellison, Michael Harris and Bandera County Commissioner Bobby Harris, (Master of Ceremony).
In lieu of flowers, Charlie’s wish is that you plant a fruit tree, his favorites, peach, apple, plum, fig and pear. He loved his fruit trees and all the jams and jellies that Barby prepared. He loved mostly giving them away to family and friends and sometimes strangers. During his various hospital stays, he’d have Barby bring cases to the doctors, nurses and technicians.
Charlie O’Brien will truly missed and will always be loved and forever will leave his heart on his sleeve for those who need, just reach out and he’ll be there for you!