Jim O’Brien, Irish-Born Sitkan, Dies at Age 63

Category: Obituaries
Created on Wednesday, 03 March 2021 00:49
Hits: 2491

James “Jim” Anthony O’Brien

James “Jim” Anthony O’Brien, who was born in Ireland but had lived in Alaska since the 1980s, passed away Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at the age of 63. 

Jim was born July 2, 1957, to Christopher and Vera, in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland. One of nine siblings, Jim was described as an adventurous and mischievous, albeit mellow, child. He attended Cistercian College Roscrea private boarding school in County Tipperary, and Mountbellew Agricultural College in County Galway. When he left college, he tried his hand at a number of things, finally settling on working machinery with his older brother, Christopher, whom he loved. At the age of 25, Jim set off to America, heading first to New York City to stay with his sister Joan and her husband John. His sister Fiona was also in NYC at that time, and soon after, his brother Desmond, his sister Jacqueline, his sister Deirdre and her husband Liam joined them.

After a year bartending at John’s restaurant in NYC, he moved on to San Francisco, and eventually made his way to Alaska to pursue his passion of working construction. He fell in love with the rugged wilderness of Alaska and never looked back.

In 1988 he met the love of his life, Tina, while working in Petersburg, and started a family of his own. His work in construction took the family to a number of places throughout Southeast Alaska, including Petersburg, Juneau, and Haines, but eventually they settled in Sitka, where Jim built his dream cabin on Kasiana Island for him and Tina to call home.

He treasured his life in Alaska, but never lost his love for his home of Ireland. He was proud to be an Irishman and often said one of his happiest moments was taking his wife and children to Nenagh, to share the places and memories from his childhood with them.

Jim was known for his quick wit, his infectious smile, his indefatigable work ethic, his kind and compassionate spirit, and of course, his lively Irish brogue. He loved his family, his dogs, the great outdoors, and the simple pleasures of hunting and fishing. He was well known and respected within the construction industry and even had the opportunity to start a company of his own with his son, Jimmy.

Jim and Tina lived a simple, happy life and were so blessed to find a love like they shared. Jim was a loving and devoted husband, an amazing father, an inspiration and mentor to many, and a friend to all.

Jim was preceded in death by his mother, Vera; his father, Christopher; his brother David; his father-in-law, Ski, his brother-in-law John, and his sister-in-law Edna.

He is survived by his wife, Tina; his three children, Toni, Jimmy, and Paddy; his brothers, Christopher and Desmond; his sisters, Maria, Joan, Deirdre, Fiona, and Jacqueline; his daughter-in-law, Twila; his mother-in-law, Barb; his brothers- and sisters-in-law, Brigid, Anna, Liam, Michael, Amy, Joe, Gary, Greg, Petula, Mary Ann, and Harry; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Due to COVID, the family will hold a small, private ceremony 2 p.m Friday, March 5, at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church. A larger celebration of his life will be held in late spring or early summer in Petersburg, where he will be laid to rest.