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Memories of the 'Great One'

This Saturday we will celebrate the life of Dick O’Brien, founding photojournalist of the Village News. While we know he rests in peace physically, his spirit and generous nature leave an indelible imprint on the many lives he touched here at the newspaper and in the community.

Dick helped start the Village News by volunteering his professional services free of charge as the primary photographer. He never asked for a dime for the time he so generously gave over the years - capturing the good, the sad, and the many events that chronicle Fallbrook’s history. He believed in the paper and the rest of the founding staff, and wanted to play a role in ensuring its success.

Rumors ran rampant in November 1997 when community members learned a new paper was about to debut in the Fallbrook/Bonsall area. Whispers around town were, “they are working on [the new newspaper] on top of orange crates in Dick O’Brien’s basement.” Dick loved that rumor, because he didn’t have a basement.

The truth was that in its infancy the paper was started in the lower level of the Reeder family home. With file cabinets providing the base, and doors stretched across the tops as work surfaces, Dick happily helped Julie (Reeder) and Michele (Howard) assemble the paper for press. It wasn’t long before the Village News took root and opened its first storefront office.

Dick’s dry wit was his signature. At times, in the office, he became so enthralled with his own humor that he could hardly utter his scathing answers to the off-the-wall questions that would come our way.

His playful sarcasm also generated phone calls. Comments like “Gee, it’s a shame your daughter is so ugly,” or “You don’t look half bad for an old broad,” by Dick to local ladies were, at times, misunderstood. The compliments were genuine, if not roundabout; the delivery was believably deadpan.

One day when congratulating him on a great idea, I said, “You know, you are such a wealth of knowledge that I feel I should address you in a different manner than just ‘Dick’ or ‘Mr. O’Brien.’” His answer was, “Well, you could address me as ‘O Great One.’” From that point forward, I addressed Dick as ‘O Great One’ when preparing to ask him a question and he always responded with a serious, answering ‘Yes?’

Dick O’Brien was a great one. He helped large numbers of people in many ways. He was a devout supporter of Future Farmers of America, 4-H, Rainbow Valley Grange, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and openly admired the efforts of every non-profit organization in this community. And through his pictures, he wanted the world to know the good work so many people did. One of Dick’s biggest contributions to mankind was the help he gave many men and women in finding and sustaining sobriety, helping them to ultimately turn their lives around.

We will miss the ‘Great One.’ He was and always will be part of the core fabric of this community newspaper, and it is our mission to best recognize his efforts by continuing the legacy of hometown news he so loved and supported.

Those interested in attending the Celebration of Life for Dick O’Brien are welcome to do so on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 1 p.m. at the Hilltop Center for Spiritual Living in Fallbrook.


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