J. William O’Brien, 87, a lifelong resident of Winooski, died peacefully at home surrounded by the arms of his children. He follows his wife of 65 years, Phyllis Dorey O’Brien, who predeceased him on September 23, 2006, and his mother, Yvonne Provost O’Brien, who predeceased him on November 5, 1979, in leaving this world for the next in the “front parlor” of the O’Brien homestead. Bill is survived by six children and 19 grandchildren: Kathleen O’Brien Blasberg, her husband, Dean, and her children Gregory, Nicole, Michelle and Danielle Guerin; Deborah O’Brien Rounds and husband, Edward, and their children Chadd O’Brien and Cody Rounds; John O’Brien and his children Jay O’Brien, Jamie O’Brien-Ramirez, Jessie O’Brien and Casey O’Brien; Mary O’Brien Bushey and her children Jennifer Alemany, Erica Shearouse, and Stephanie Sharpe; William O’Brien and his wife, Susan, and their children Ashley, Kelley, Joseph and Billy; Sharon O’Brien Kelley and her husband, Brennan, and their children Susie Topp and Julianne Graham. He is also survived by 22 great-grandchildren, one great-great grandchild and sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law Shirley O’Brien, Lily O’Brien, Dorlene Sullivan, Charlene and Al Kellett, Mary and Bernard Bessette, Laurie Farrell, and Robert Gamelin. Bill was also predeceased by his father, John E. O’Brien; brothers Dr. Thomas O’Brien and Dr. Robert O’Brien; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law Bernard and Joye Dorey, Barbara and Harold Poirier, Eleanor and Perley Provost, Monica Gamelin, and Thomas Sullivan.
Bill graduated from Winooski High School in 1943 and St. Michael’s College in 1949. He faithfully served his country in WWII, enlisting in the United States Marines at the age of 17. He married Phyllis Dorey on December 28, 1948, at St. Stephen Church in Winooski. He was a charter member of the Vermont State Police Academy, graduating at the top of his class in 1949. He served in the Vermont State Police from 1949 to 1951, at which point he opted for a career change and enrolled in law school. He graduated from Boston University School of Law in 1954 and served as a law clerk to Vermont Federal District Court Judge Ernest Gibson in 1955. In 1956, he entered private practice and was appointed Winooski city attorney. He was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives from Winooski from 1956 to 1960. In 1958 he was elected as Chittenden County state’s attorney. In 1960 he was elected Chittenden County probate judge and was reelected five times. He lost his only political race in a special election to the United States Congress in 1972. He returned to the private practice of law in 1972 until his retirement in 2006.
Bill was a charter member of the National Diocesan Attorneys Association in 1963 and served the legal needs of the Diocese of Burlington under bishops Robert F. Joyce, John A. Marshall and Kenneth A. Angell. He was a past chairman of the Uniform Probate Commission and the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Commission. He was a lifelong member of St. Stephen Parish in Winooski, the Knights of Columbus, and several other charitable and fraternal organizations. His life was marked in dedication to the service of others, his family and his church. He leaves behind a legacy of compassion and caring that will be greatly missed.
Visiting hours occured on Friday November 29, at LaVigne Funeral Home, 132 Main Street in Winooski. Prayer service by the Knights of Columbus occured at 1:30 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Saturday, November 30, at St. Stephen Catholic Church on Barlow Street in Winooski.
In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to the Bishop’s Fund, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT, 05403.