An avid outdoorsman and successful businessman, Con O'Brien died Sunday at his East Gull Lake home. He was 78.
In the Navy, O'Brien met one of his longtime friends, Buster Spaulding of Bemidji. They hunted and fished together for the next 50 years.
"We hunted every year together, John Bloom, Con and I," Spaulding said. "Our first trip to Alaska we had a tent that leaked everywhere except the floor, which held water just fine. So we slept in water. Con was game for everything, and that's what made him fun.
"He was an excellent shot with a rifle and a good shot with a shotgun. We hunted all the northwestern states and Canada. We went 1,000 miles north of Montreal for caribou. We fished in Belize for tarpon. We got a shark on and had to cut the line. On our last hunt in Alaska, 15 years ago, we got three big moose. Last year he wanted to go duck hunting but his legs were gone. So we put him on a four-wheeler and sat him in a brush pile. He got a few. He wanted to go again this year but he had had a pacemaker put in and his circulation wasn't good enough."
After years of selling groceries with his father, O'Brien bought out Mueller Transfer in the 1940s and re-named the Brainerd business Twin Cities Brainerd Express, or TCBX. He distributed beer and petroleum and made daily freight runs to the Twin Cities. He also was an agent for North American Van Lines.
O'Brien's sons, Pat and Tim, began working in the family business while in high school and both remain today. Pat O'Brien, 43, the company vice president, recalled how his father was loyal to his beliefs throughout his years in business.
"Dad was from the old school," Pat O'Brien said. "He made deals with a handshake and stood by every one of them. I wish I knew how many of our drivers borrowed money from him. He never turned anybody down. If somebody needed something he found a way to get it for him."
Con O'Brien was a member of St. Francis Catholic Church, the American Legion, VFW, Moose Lodge and Ducks Unlimited.
Mike Burton, senior director of development for the Paul Bunyan Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, said O'Brien will be remembered as one of the most generous donors the organization has ever had.
"He rarely missed an event and contributed to every cause we had for 30 years," Burton said. "He was an ardent supporter of our chapter since the early 1970s. He was a sponsor in perpetuity."
Services will be 11 a.m. Friday at St. Francis Catholic Church in Brainerd.
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