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Pat O’Brien

Patrick Joseph O’Brien, a resident of Winthrop, MN for 64 years, died on December 20th, 2021 at the age of 91. Pat passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family. Pat was born in 1930 in Arlington, MN, the fifth of Mary and William O’Brien’s seven children. He grew up on the edge of town and honed his athletic skills playing baseball in Arlington’s infamous “Cow-Pie Stadium” and competing against his brothers in HORSE to determine who would milk the family cow. He graduated from Arlington High School in 1948, where he was a standout on the football, basketball, and baseball teams. Pat began working at the Arlington bakery at a young age, financing his love of movies and Saturday visits to the local theater. After high school graduation he studied baking at Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis, and then worked as a baker at National Tea Company. His career was put on hold when he was drafted into the Army, serving two years at Fort Knox as a tank instructor. While on a furlough, Pat met Yvonne Spartz, a spirited young medical technologist from Sacred Heart, MN who worked at the Arlington Hospital. When his military service ended, Pat began dating Yvonne in earnest, making frequent trips from Minneapolis to Arlington to court her with his irresistible good looks and humor. The two were married in 1955 and lived in Minneapolis. In 1957, Pat and Yvonne purchased a bakery in Winthrop and moved to the community with their newborn son, John. O’Brien’s Bakery quickly became a thriving business, thanks to Pat’s hard work, attention to detail and high-quality baked goods. The O’Brien family also grew, as Pat and Yvonne had 6 more children in the next 8 years, each of them eventually earning the unwelcome privilege of early morning shifts at the bakery with their dad. During his tenure as a business owner, Pat was very involved in community activities. He was a longtime member of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, treasurer of Winthrop Charities for 30 years, a founding member and first president of the high school sports booster club, and active in the St. Francis de Sales parish. In 1995 Pat sold the bakery and began a second career as a baking consultant. He first worked for a baking supply company, traveling to bakeries around MN solving equipment and formula problems. He then consulted for Walmart and helped open more than 70 in-store bakeries, primarily on the East Coast and in the South. This had the added benefit of allowing the Civil War enthusiast the opportunity to visit many famous Southern battlefields. Pat devoted his leisure time to family. He combined dedication to his children with a deep love of sports, attending hundreds of football, basketball, and volleyball games as well as countless track and cross country meets, and even the occasional moto-cross event. A die-hard, lifelong Gopher fan, Pat had an inside view of Gopher football when son Dan became an athletic director and then assistant football coach at the University of Minnesota. Pat was a master at simultaneously watching one football game on television and one live-streamed on the computer, while listening to the color commentary of a third game on the radio. Pat’s phenomenal memory for all things sports cannot be overlooked. He could recite scores from his high school competitions, recall the nicknames of his kids’ toughest competitors, and retell stories of nail-biting overtimes from decades long past. Pat also enjoyed spending time at the family cabin and water skied well into his 60’s. From 1965 until 2017, he was the boat captain for three generations of water skiers. In retirement, Pat and Yvonne spent time traveling in the United States and Europe, including three trips to the land of the proud Irishman’s ancestors. As anyone who knew him could attest, Pat had the gift of storytelling and quick wit of his heritage. An exceptional conversationalist, he connected with and enjoyed people from all walks of life. He laughed easily and often. Most importantly, Pat lived a life characterized by kindness, grace, and dignity, no matter the situation. Pat never spoke an unkind word about anyone, except the occasional referee who made a bad call. Pat was preceded in death by son John, daughter-in-law Sylvie (Marguet), and five siblings. He is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Yvonne, six children: Mick, Mary, Tim, Joe (Val), Dan (Chris) and Kathy McKeag (Dave), daughter-in-law Tina, 19 grandchildren, three great grandchildren, and sister Patricia Buckentine. A wake is planned for the evening of March 16th, and a funeral mass and celebration of life will be held on March 17th (yes, on St. Patrick’s Day) at 11:00 am, St. Francis de Sales Church in Winthrop. In lieu of memorials, donations may be made to St. Francis de Sales Church or Team One Four Infusion Center Transformation Fund (https://crowdfund.umn.edu/campaign/Team-One-Four), created by Pat and Yvonne’s grandson, Casey O’Brien, to improve the experience of children undergoing cancer treatment at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

6 Comments

  1. Tommy Neubarth on January 4, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    Rest in peace my dear friend, you will be missed by many.

  2. Michael D Neubarth on February 4, 2022 at 6:40 pm

    Rest in peace my friend, Thoughts and prayers to the family.

  3. Susie n jon eickhoff on February 28, 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Pat was a great uncle and all around good guy!

  4. Mary lou (Johnson) Rolfe on March 14, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    My deepest sympathies to the O’Brien family. Pat was a wonderful man.

  5. Kristine Schwartz on March 15, 2022 at 11:47 am

    Rest in peace . Thoughts and prayers to all the family.

  6. Denise M Melius on March 16, 2022 at 9:10 am

    Sending sympathies to the O’Brien Family. Pat was a great man. So many wonderful memories of you all.

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