THE life of James Peter O'Brien was celebrated this week after the community stalwart passed away aged 91.
Mr O'Brien served on Corangamite Shire Council from 1999 to 2004, then again from 2006 to 2008.
He was proud and passionate about his hometown of Terang, and advocated for projects to benefit the community and the region.
Better known as 'Jim', 'Bomber', 'Seamus', 'Dad' and 'Pa', he was born on November 15, 1930 in Hawthorn and was looked after by the nuns at the Lady of Victory Convent after he was left an orphan shortly after birth.
At the age of 5, Mr O'Brien was taken to St Augustine's orphanage in Geelong and was raised by the Christian Brothers.
At the age of 14, he was taken to Terang by Father Brosnan with nothing but a bag of clothes. Here he lived and worked on Mick Lourey's farm at Kolora. A short time later Mick passed away and Jim went to live with James and Bridgette, parents of Jim Kenna, and their family at their dairy farm in Noorat.
It was here he developed his passion for dairy farming and gardening. In the following 10 years he worked on several other dairy farms including the Glennen, Lourey and Conheady properties, where he developed great friendships.
In 1952 he moved to the Winchelsea/Geelong area and worked as a herd tester where he met Brian and Vin Garner who showed him a thing or two at the local pubs.
His love for Noorat saw him return two years later where he worked on farms and took on the role as the caretaker for the St Joseph's Tennis Club.
He spent the summer months watering and bagging the surface to ensure it was right for Saturday competitions.
He was very particular about his lawn, his family said.
"He would have made a great curator for the MCG.
"Dad never did anything by halves and even oversaw the introduction of lights for nighttime competition."
Some would argue that all his time spent at the tennis club was not just about the tennis, it was Aileen Lourey who caught his eye.
This was to be the the start of a devoted long-term romance and the two were happily married in October 1962.
After they were married, the Kennas set them up with 20 acres of land which had a house and old headlock dairy, where they milked a few cows and reared a few calves.
Through the mail run he met Mrs Ryan from Mortlake, who owned 250 acres of land at Ellerslie. This land would be offered to Jim to rent, and this was the beginning of the jersey herd that the family still has today.
It is also the place he raised his 10 kids.
As a family of 12, transport was always a logistical issue.
The new Holden Kingswood sedan purchased in the 1970s would see many trips to the church, races, footy and even down the back paddock.
The front bench seat would house mum, dad, and two kids and the rear of the car would hold the other eight.
Sadly, on October 4 1980, his wife Aileen passed away due to heart complications.
During this difficult time Mr O'Brien was adamant the family would stay together, his family said.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child and this was certainly true in our case."
Mr O'Brien valued mateship, liked to be active and take part in activities that helped the community.
He was passionate about getting better deals for farmers and the community, launching himself into the UDV, VicStock, St Vincent De Paul, the hospital board, St Colemans Primary School and the Mortlake Shire, amongst others.
Corangamite Shire Council mayor Ruth Gstrein said Mr O'Brien would be sorely missed by many.
"He was a great man, and had a very dry sense of humour," she said.
"He was 91 and on the ball right up until the end.
"Our condolences to the O'Brien family."
1995 would see the beginning of a new chapter of his life - finding his parents.
With many inquiries through the Catholic Church, Mr O'Brien found out his parents were still alive.
His mother Anne O'Brien was living in Hawthorn whilst his father James Tyquin - better known as Jim Tyquin - was living in Sunbury.
From then many family gatherings were held with Anne as a family, who was affectionately known to the children as 'Topsy'.
His father Jim Tyquin was in ill health and died shortly after the connection had been made.
"The looks of Dad and his father Jim Tyquin were uncanny," his family said.
"The Tyquin family immediately welcomed him into the family as one of their own with many catchups and get togethers.
"I know Dad was very grateful of their acceptance and rejoiced in the fact that he now had several brothers and sisters and a sense of family for both himself and us."
In retirement, Mr O'Brien moved to Terang and took on the role as a grandfather and a "socialite".
As a grandfather of 15 kids, it kept him on his toes keeping them out of his garden.
"He always kept the lolly jar full, never missed a birthday or their important events," his family said.
He took pride in his garden in Terang, continued his support for the local communities and enjoyed retirement with his annual holidays down at Warrnambool caravan park and up to Queensland to escape the winter.
He would organise a Sunday roast every week for anyone who was around and would take pleasure in driving to Melbourne or visiting the farm.
Nothing gave Mr O'Brien more pleasure than at Christmas when he would see the family all together.
He passed away peacefully at Terang and Mortlake Health Service on December 15, 2021.
He was the loving father and father-in-law of Phillip, Catherine, Brendan and Tania, Anne and Stephen, Maureen and Leigh, Helen and David, James, Bernadette and Aaron, Gerard (dec), Dennis and Jo. In addition, he was the adored grandfather of Abby, Brooke, Timmy, Bonnie, Georgina, Harry, Lochie, Elizabeth, James, Ellie, Luke, Lucas, Xavier, Frederick and Penelope (dec).
His funeral was held in Terang on December 29.
"Dad was a man that could relate to anyone, and I know there are so many stories we all have of Dad," his family said.
"These are just a few stories that demonstrate his hard work, resilience and positive outlook on life, along with his own unique sense of humour.
"As you can see Dad lived a life of many ups and downs but through all these challenges, he always rose above them.
"He was a farmer, a councillor, a president of a football club, a friend, and a great man but I know that his greatest role was being a father and a grandfather.
"He was admired and respected by all. He taught us to love life and make the most of every moment. He was truly the best."
Multi-platform journalist and digital / social producer for Australian Community Media, covering all the latest news across south-west Victoria. Got a news tip? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org | 0475 951 618
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.