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February 9, 2024

Extract from Damian Bestser the Editor of the fortnightly New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News.
The Derwent Valley will farewell a community hereo on Friday with the funeral of World War II veteran Ken O’Brien
a noted businessman, family man, historian and champion of his beloved New Norfolk.

Mr O’Brien, who moved to New Norfolk from Oatlands in 1923 as a baby, died last week in his 101st year.

His parents established the general store that still stands at 38 High St and is now being converted into apartments. The building still bears his father’s name J.G. O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien attended the New Norfolk State School and Hobart High School and was planning to further his education when World War II intervened and he joined the army. Like his father in World War I, he rose to the rank of sergeant.
He was eventually recruited into the Z Special Unit, which carried out covert operations behind enemy lines.
He was required to keep this element of his war service secret for decades afterwards.

After the war he took over the family business and married mothercraft nurse Nora. Together they raised Nicholas, Frances, Martin and Louise.

In the late 1950s he sold the general store and built a drapery shop next door, which he ran until retiring in the mid-1980s.

Chief among the many awards and honours bestowed upon Mr O’Brien was his Medal of the Order of Australia (IAM), which was conferred in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2003.

The full extent of Mr O’Brien’s community services will probably never be know. It includes being a founding member of the local branches of Legacy, Rotary and Probus. He was a pillar of the masonic lodge and was also a member of the local historical society and a keenly sought-after guest speaker. He wrote many articles for the local paper.

Mr O’Brien helped with the establishment of the New Norfolk Golf Club at its present location and took part in school working bees. “If there was a job to be done, he’d be there,” daughter Fran McDonald said at the time of his 100th birthday last year. He died shortly before 2am on Friday with his family by his side.

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