Dennis Patrick O’Brien Sr., of Oakland, NJ, passed away on April 21, 2022 at the age of 76. He was the beloved husband of Mary Anne (Casazza) O’Brien and devoted father to Dennis O’Brien, Jr. Born in Cork, Ireland, he came to the US at age 14. He graduated from Essex Catholic High School, went on to get his bachelor’s and masters degrees from the University of Notre Dame, and finally, his Ph. D. in Criminology from the John Jay School of Criminal Justice. He worked in law enforcement with the Newark Police, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department as a homicide detective, and, finally, as a criminologist with Nationwide Insurance. Dennis was a highly decorated veteran, recipient of the Navy Cross, and retired as a Colonel with the US Marine Corps.
Dennis devoted his life to community service, as an officer in the American Legion, the VFW, Catholic War Veterans, Knights of Columbus, and Exalted Ruler of two Elks Lodges. Most recently, as Past Exalted Ruler at Wayne Elks Lodge 2181, he served as chairperson of the Special Children’s Committee. He was also a member of the Special Children’s Committee for the North Jersey Elks Developmental Disabilities Agency. Dennis was a Bergenfield fireman and a paramedic with UMDMJ in Newark.
In addition to his passion for community service, Dennis loved sports. He played football for Notre Dame, so the weekly games were a religious experience at the O’Brien house. He volunteered at the Oakland Recreation Department football games, and could be found on Friday and Saturday evenings on the chain gang, where he said he “always had the best seat in the house!” Dennis loved to skate, was on the US Olympic Hockey Team, and was a roller dance champion. He and Dennis Jr. spent hours together on the roller rink and on the golf course. His passion for sports was equaled by his passion for music. He was an Irish tenor, and sang in the choir at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newark, where his mother accompanied them on the organ. He played the bagpipes with the Essex County Sons of the Shillelagh.
Dennis was one of 12 children. He is predeceased by his parents, Timothy O’Brien, Sr., and Margaret Mary, brothers Timothy Jr. and Kenny, and sisters Barbara and Dorothea. He is survived by his brothers Robert, John, James, Rick, and David, and sisters Kathleen and Nancy.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the North Jersey Elks Developmental Disabilities Agency (NJEDDA) –OR- NJ State Elks Association-Army of Hope would be appreciated.
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