Kenneth J. O'Brien
08/08/1930 - 07/23/2023

Kenneth J. O’Brien

August 8, 1930 – July 23, 2023

Kenneth J. O’Brien, of Chatham, NJ, was born on August 8, 1930 in Waterbury, CT. In his early years, the family moved to the Oakland Beach section of Warwick, RI where he attended public schools, and graduated from Samuel Gorton High School. At Gorton, Ken was a four-sport athlete, playing basketball, football, running track, and captaining the baseball team, which he was named to the Providence Journal’s All-State Team for. He also captained the 1948 Rhode Island State Championship CYO baseball team. Ken later went on to try out for the Brooklyn Dodgers of Major League Baseball.

Ken attended the University of Rhode Island and graduated in 1952. There he was a member of the track and field team. Anchored by an athletic work grant, he worked a number of jobs including establishing and operating a small retail business. Upon graduation, after being honorably discharged from the United States Naval Reserves, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the United States Army, where he completed the Infantry Officers program at Ft. Benning, GA. He later attended the Temple University Graduate School of Business Administration. In addition, he completed the Corporate Leadership Development Program at Carleton College in Northfield, MN.

In 1952, ordered to active duty during the Korean War, Ken was assigned to the 8th Infantry Division and served as a heavy weapons company commander. After active duty, he served in several reserve assignments in Civil Affairs – Military Government Units and was honorably discharged in 1962 with the rank of Captain.

Following his military service, Ken was employed by Sun Oil Company in their Management Development program in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1955, he relocated to New Jersey and took a job with New Jersey Bell. Later he transferred to AT&T where he was a faculty member of the Bell System Data Communications Training Program at Cooperstown, NY. He rotated through a number of assignments at New Jersey Bell, including Division Accounting Manager, Area General Manager, Assistant Vice President – Plant, General Business Systems Manager, and Assistant Vice President Market Management.

In 1981, during the planning for the eventual breakup of the Bell System, Ken transferred to the AT&T Corporate Headquarters as the Director of Sales Operations. Later he became Director of Marketing Operations, and, at the AT&T Divestiture, he was named the Director of Corporate Planning. In 1984, he was elected Vice President and joined Bell Communications Research (Bellcore) as Vice President Market Research. In 1991, he retired from Bellcore. Ken, as Managing Partner, helped establish the Foster O’Brien Group in 1991 and, for the next decade, provided domestic and international marketing and management consulting services to a wide range of companies including a number of startup enterprises. One of his more interesting assignments was in the former Soviet Republics of Armenia and Georgia. There he was tasked to develop a competitive market-based business plan for Armenia’s leading internet service provider.

Ken and his family previously lived in Blackwood and Haddonfield, NJ as well as Cooperstown, NY. They also maintained a residence on Fripp Island, SC for many years. As a 60-year resident of Chatham, NJ, Ken was very active in the local recreation program as a manager in boys’ baseball, as well as coaching and league coordinator for girls’ softball, soccer, and basketball. In addition, he was Chairman of the Planning Board, Chairman of the Zoning Board, and Chairman of the Cable TV Committee. He was also the Vice President of the Chatham Fish and Game Protective Association, and for many years played tennis and platform tennis in league competition.

Ken held memberships and leadership positions in many professional and civic organizations. He was a Trustee and Board Chairman of the New Jersey Automobile Club (AAA), Director of the United Way, and Chairman of the Board of the Salvation Army in Newark. He was also a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the East Orange General Hospital, and President of the Fripp Island, SC Condominium Association. Ken was a Volunteer with the International Executive Services Corps (IESC), the Atlantic Health Rehabilitation Institute Community Advisory Committee, and was a New Jersey Representative for the National Aphasia Association.

Ken’s long interest in ancient history brought him to several archeological projects in Arizona, Spain, and Israel. In 1993, in Frias, Spain, while uncovering an ancient family dwelling with a University of Bristol (England) team, one of Ken’s most memorable finds was an unusually large and rare storage vessel, carbon-dated to around 2000 B.C. Several years later, he, along with his wife Ruth and daughter Colleen, accompanied by several friends, revisited the site and were able to view the find on display in the Aragon Provence Museum in Teruel, Spain.

Ken was a lifelong disciple of the Boston Red Sox, as well as a college basketball fan.

Ken and his wife Ruth (Fitzgerald), a former flight attendant, were married in 1957. Together they traveled extensively throughout the United States, Western and Central Europe, and, with their daughters, to the Caribbean. She was the love of his life.

Ken is predeceased by his wife Ruth, his daughter Leslie, nephew Michael of Bristol, RI, brothers Harold (Harry) of Hartford, CT and Charles (Chuck) of Attleboro, MA, along with his parents George and Mary O’Brien of Warwick, RI. He is survived by his beloved daughters Kerry of Chatham Township, NJ, Colleen Kelleher and her husband Bill, and his best pal, grandson Will of Pennington, NJ. He is also survived by nieces Nancy Ann Walsh (Dennis) of Attleboro, MA, Patti Jean Theroux (Mark) of Englewood, FL, niece-in-law Denise O’Brien (Michael) of Bristol, RI, and nephews Greg O’Brien of CT and Keith O’Brien of RI.

Services will be private and burial will be with Ruth at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery.

The family would like to thank everyone at Arden Courts of Whippany, NJ for their compassionate care and support.

The family asks that any donations be made to the Sisters of Christian Charity, Mallinckrodt Convent, 350 Bernardsville Road, Mendham, NJ 07945 or in remembrance of Ruth Fitzgerald O’Brien.

Funeral Home:
Wm. A. Bradley & Son Funeral Home
Memorial Gifts:
The family asks that any donations be made to the Sisters of Christian Charity, Mallinckrodt Convent, 350 Bernardsville Road, Mendham, NJ 07945 or in remembrance of Ruth Fitzgerald O'Brien
Bradley Funeral Homes
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