Forrest O’Brien

Forrest O’Brien was born in Downey, Calif., July 23, 1929, to Frankie (Southmaid) and William O’Brien. At age 2 the family packed up and moved to western South Dakota  to settle on an acreage inherited by Frankie in the Nisland area where his first experience with snow left a lasting impression on his bare feet!
Two weeks prior to graduating the eighth grade he was offered a job to herd sheep in Montana. He was given a sheep wagon, herd dog, rifle and about every two weeks the boss showed up with a fresh supply of canned goods. He never returned home except for visits. After sheep herding he took any odd job he could find and said “at the end of the day in winter  if I had an extra 50 cents I would rent a hotel room. If not, I would sleep in the lobby or hallway.”
When drafted in 1951 he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and became a helicopter mechanic. As a member of the helicopter evacuation team, every flight required a mechanic to be on board when retrieving the wounded and dead. He was discharged from active duty after serving in Korea from 1951-53 with the rank of staff sargent. He remained on reserve until 1959 when he was honorably discharged.
Shortly after his discharge from Korea he was married to Betty (Brost) O’Brien Nov. 21, 1953.  He and Betty lived and worked in Belle Fourche, S.D. They had two children, Dan and Deana. 
In 1966 Betty was offered a job teaching school in Custer, S.D., and away they went.
In Custer Forrest worked various jobs mining and logging until settling in working for the V&R sawmill. He was a volunteer with Custer County Search and Rescue and spent much of his free time as a part time prospector. 
Once he retired he loved to join his friends for breakfast every morning either at “Our Place” or the Wrangler Café in Custer.  He didn’t say much, but always enjoyed listening to the stories the others had to share. He lived at Custer Senior Care.
Forrest died Oct. 16, 2020, at the Monument Health Custer Hospital after a short bout with pneumonia. He was 91.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Frankie; father, William; brothers, Earnest, Richard and Bill; sister, Viola; and his wife, Betty.
Forrest is survived by his sister Eula; children, Dan and Deana; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. 
Dad always said he loved those days herding sheep and flying in the helicopters. Asked the morning that he passed if he was heading out to herd sheep or fly helicopters, without hesitation he said “I’m going to fly those helicopters!” Fly on Papa.
No services are being held at this time.  When the threat of COVID is more under control, the family will gather for interment of Forrest and Betty at the Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, S.D.

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