Thursday, August 16, 2012

John Leslie O'Brien - His Story

On Wednesday the 20th of June we said goodbye to Bretts Dad. He now lies in the Centennial Park cemetery on Goodwood Road in Pasedena, Adelaide.

I never really knew his full story, and listened with interest and pride as it was read out at his funeral. I am thankful I knew him. I am thankful that we went to see him in May in Arno Bay, and we got to spend time with him. I am thankful for the photos we got of him with our daughters. I am thankful that he died peacefully with his family around him. I am thankful to Jacko emailing this on, so that my daughters will one day read it and know about their pop. 

'Pride in family, is pride in ordinary people,
who in our hearts and minds become extraordinary'

This is his story, written by Annette O'Brien, my sister in law and wife of Johns eldest son Jacko(Haydn), and read by Zoe O'Brien, their daughter at the service.


John Lesley OBrien was born on 21st October 1922 he was born at home to Robert Joseph (better known as Patty) and Florence Gertrude Mary May OBrien in Queens Town, Pt Adelaide.

He was the 4th child of 7, Elleen, George (born before the first world war), then Bill, John, Bob, Lionel and Fred born after the war. They moved to Woods Point on the river near Tailem Bend during the depression years, Patty got work as a dairy farmer. John or Jack as his brothers called him went to Woods Point schools he had to repeat year 7, as there was no high school.

After school Jack worked at Woods Point Limited at sheep station as a rouse about.

Jack enlisted 14th October 1941 in the Navy, trained and worked as an Able Seaman Radar Operator. He served on a corvette called the Cesnock. He worked on submarines patrols and escorting merchant ships, he was based at Columbo. After the war in Europe finished they then came back to Australia and formed the newly formed British Pacific fleet. John was at Tokyo Bay when Japan officially signed the surrender and then on to Hong Kong for its surrender 3 days later. Then they picked up prisoners from all the Islands around the pacific and Burma.

After the war he was a security guard at Woomera. He went to Millicent as a stock agent for Oats & Co, then joined the Lands Department and cleared soldier settlement blocks at Canunda and all over the South East. In the earlier years he played football for Hatherleigh, later we found out it was only because he was keen on one of the goalkeepers 5 daughters.

Johns story is that Daphne jumped out in front of his car in the main street of Millicent to attract his attention. He nearly ran over her.

John met Daphne Elizabeth Skeer and married in 1953, they had Haydn, Nigel, Gayle. In 1959 they acquired a soldier’s settlement block at Canunda and named it Shangrila, which means a place of peace and tranquillity (We often wondered about that) then came along Lee and Brett.  John had an affinity with the land. The children have many stories about their loved farm life as when…………..

Johns special place on the farm was Billy Goat Island where Brett went to visit on Saturday morning. Even though John was a hard working farmer, he still involved himself in his sons sports, he was President of the Baseball Cub for a few years and even filled in for the B grade team and was a very good batter.
He also enjoyed taking his daughters to the horse Hunt Club; he especially liked the stirrup cup (which involved a lot of laughs and a few stiff drinks).

He liked to go to the RSLClub and to the Anzac marches with his RSL mates (which we have a suspicion a lot of sky larking happened).

In 1979 John married Helen Banks and met Donald (who he adored and who adored and respected him). Then came along the apple of his eye Catherine.
In 1988 John retired and moved to Millicent and then to Mt Gambier, in this time they went for a trip around the world, which John often spoke of his experiences. In 1994 he did the Anzac March in Canberra at the War Memorial and was saluted by Peter Cosgrave.

In 1997 John packed up the Honda and moved to Arno Bay and lived with his son, daughter in-law and grandchildren Haydn, Annette, Danny and Zoe. He adored this daughter in-law and grand children and all the local children who called him Pop (everyone called him Pop)

He loved cross word puzzles, gardening, the news, drives to the beach and Fridays when he and Annette went to Cleve for coffee, to do X lotto (hoping for that big win) and picked the grand kids up from school (save that long trip home on the bus).

John was a keen lawn bowler and played first division pennants for Mt Gambier RSL and Arno Bay Bowling Clubs. He won 2 runners up Pairs Championships with his son Haydn, and won many other events. He was especially proud when he got to play a game of 4s with Haydn Annette and Danny.

Pop had a very dry sense of humour when things went wrong with the Department of Veteran Affairs, he would say bugger them I am NOT GOING TO FIGHT ANOTHER WAR FOR THEM.

Pop was a one eyed Port Power supporter and would often say when having a bad health day, you better ring Port Power and tell them I cant play this week.

Pop loved his children and the loves of this life were his 17 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. He liked to brag about them to others but he struggled to tell them himself.  He often caught the bus to Gayle’s to visit all the kids and grandies in Adelaide and Millicent.

On April 25th 2012, Pop marched in the Arno Bay Anzac March and also became a permanent resident of the Cleve Hostel where he had a very short stay until June 3rd when he was flown to the Flinders Medical Centre with acute renal failure. When we all got to say good-bye. We lost John, Jack, Dad Pop and old Pop on Saturday morning June 16th 2012, aged 89 years.

John was a proud upstanding man with a dry unique sense of humour, which bordered on the edge of  being politically incorrect. He was a dear loved Brother, Father, Father In-law, Grandfather,  Great Grandfather  and friend.

Taken on our visit to Arno Bay in May


  1. What a wonderful story, he sounds like an amazing man. Sorry to hear of your family's loss. Sending many love filled fairy wishes and butterfly kisses your way

  2. What a lovely story. I think it is so important to know the stories of our grandparents and great grandparents to pass down to our children. I am so grateful that my parents have passed on wonderful stories to me that I can share with my son, but I have to get my husband to find out more about his family as his knowledge is quite limited, I'd love my son to really know the history of both families. Thank you so much for sharing John's story.

    1. I'm so glad I have the story published now, it's there for them to read whenever they want or need, to go along with the photos they have.

  3. A beautiful eulogy for a much loved part of your family. I just adore the photo of your little ones with their pop. Truly one to cherish. X

    1. He loved the girls, he lit up when he saw them. We got some great photos.

  4. Beautiful story, he lived a great life. It's lovely that your munchkins will have his story to read as they grow up. Incidentally my grandmother also passed away on the 16th June, although it was in 2001. But 11 years later I still miss her and am so thankful that I got to spend 19 years of my life with her.

    1. He lived a full life, he will be missed though, especially at family gatherings.

  5. I was excited to find this page, my Father is Fred O'Brien, so this is my Uncle Jack. I never knew all this about him.

    1. So glad you found your way here. You would be my husbands cousin. If you are ever down around Millicent in SA, you must get in touch for a catch up. Brett's brother Nigel also lives down this way x


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