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Spokane civic leader Jack O’Brien dies at 91

Thu., Sept. 26, 2013

Jack O’Brien, a longtime political activist and civic booster who twice served on the Spokane City Council, died this week. He was 91.

A Spokane native born John Michael O’Brien Jr., he graduated from Gonzaga University during World War II and served in the U.S. Army. He had a varied business career after the war that included management for Standard Oil, paint store owner, business manager of the Inland Register, freelance public relations consultant and photographer. He served in the Washington National Guard from 1948-71 and was the first manager of the Spokane office of the state Commerce and Economic Development Department, which helped secure federal funds for Expo ’74.

In 1960, he was among dozens of candidates for the new Spokane City Council, which voters had approved with the new city manager form of government. He didn’t win that race, but was elected to the council in 1971 during preparations for the coming world’s fair. O’Brien served through 1977, when he opted not to run for re-election.

In 1980, however, he was appointed to the council again to fill a vacancy and served through the end of 1981. He ran for port district commissioner in 1982 and topped a nine-person field, but voters rejected the district so he didn’t get a chance to serve. He stayed active in politics and civic life, working on campaigns and pushing city officials for improvements large and small, from the Ag Trade Center expansion to paving Spokane’s many dirt or gravel streets to cut down on pollution.

He and his wife had 13 children, prompting longtime friend and then-Mayor Jack Geraghty to declare “Jack O’Brien Family Values Week” in August 1996 when the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

O’Brien is survived by his wife of 67 years, Charlotte “Chotsie” O’Brien, 12 children, 39 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. A Rosary service is set for 5 p.m. Sunday at Hennessey Funeral Home, 2203 N. Division St., and a funeral mass for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Peter Catholic Church, 3520 E. 18th Ave., where he was a founding member.

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