By Tegan Kraklio
Time is measured and remembered each year in its passing, but the legacy of lives are, as well. Minutes after the New Year, beloved former Muscatine Mayor Richard “Dick” O’Brien passed away in Lutheran Living’s hospice care at the age of 92. The life he left behind is fondly remembered by the city he served, and by those who worked with him and after him.
Current Mayor Diana L. Broderson held a moment of silence at the Jan. 2 council meeting to honor her predecessor, and said O’Brien left some big shoes to fill. She also said that he was very gracious in helping her become acclimated to the position. She had lunch a few times with O’Brien and former Mayor Evelyn Schauland, who she said gave great advice and guidance when she was first elected.
Schauland, a longtime friend of O’Brien, was the first to suggest that he should try politics. He was elected to city council before becoming mayor, and served from 1996-2011, making him the longest serving mayor in Muscatine history.
O’Brien’s greatest achievement according to Broderson?
“Mayor O’Brien led Muscatine very well as is witnessed by the love that we all have for him. He moved Muscatine forward by standing firm in his position and beliefs while at the same time welcoming new ideas and innovations.”
O’Brien was born and raised in Muscatine where he graduated from Muscatine High School in 1944 before going on to serve in the U.S. Navy in World War II. Then, he worked in automotive sales for BMW North American in Dallas, Texas. Finally, in the late 80s, he took early retirement and returned to Muscatine with his wife Audrey to be near his mother.
During office, O’Brien oversaw city beautification efforts including riverfront re-development, storm and sanitation projects, and the Muscatine Aquatic Center. He represented Muscatine on the Bi-State Regional Commission and was a member of the Community Improvement Action Team. He supported local option sales tax that he introduced and helped get federal funding for the Muscatine Municipal Airport terminal.
Although he served his city long and diligently, O’Brien is better remembered by his character. Over the years news articles repeatedly report him to be cheerful, soft hearted, trustworthy, sociable, passionate and kind. Many are quoted saying he was an honor to work with, that he had good ethics, and that he was a genuinely caring soul who listened well. He loved his city and its people.
“Mayor O’Brien’s life and legacy is found in every aspect of Muscatine.” Said Broderson. “He will forever be remembered, honored, and loved by its citizens.”