March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 12

W E A R E P A R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N

Remembering Park and Recreation
Advocate Eric O'Brien
By Richard J. Dolesh

O
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE O'BRIEN FAMILY

n January 7, NRPA lost one of its most energetic and dedicated
former advocate board members and board chairs, Eric O'Brien.
" Eric believed that parks and recreation could change people's
lives for the better, " says Dean Tice, former executive director of
NRPA from 1986 to 1991, " and he deeply believed that everyone was entitled
to the benefits of parks and recreation. " Fran Mainella, former director of the
National Park Service, says, " Eric was an integral part of NRPA's leadership
for many years. He exemplified the citizen working with the professional.
When I think of citizens working for parks and recreation, I think of him. "

Eric O'Brien, former NRPA board member and board chair, was a staunch advocate of parks and recreation.

O'Brien began his career as a sales
representative for M.E. O'Brien and
Sons, a family business in Medway,
Massachusetts, that under his ownership became the largest supplier
of outdoor recreation equipment in
New England. The business today
continues under the leadership of
his daughters.
Pat Faust, president of Landscape Structures Inc. (LSI), says
that O'Brien and Sons was always
one of their top sales companies,
but he notes that O'Brien contributed to the field of parks and
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Parks & Recreation

recreation in many other ways as
well. " He was always interested
in helping people, not only in his
business, but [also] through his
volunteering and leadership in
NRPA and other organizations.
He brought many new people to
NRPA from the commercial sector, contributed financially himself and helped raise funds for the
association. Barb King, founder
of LSI, along with her husband
Steve, became active in NRPA because of Eric, " says Faust.
As an advocate in the early
1970s, O'Brien began to serve on
local park and recreation boards
and committees in Massachusetts,
including for the Town of Medford
and later, the Olmsted Parks State
Advisory Board. He was elected to
NRPA's board of trustees in 1985,
which he served on until 1994 and
was then elected chairman of the
board for two terms from 1995 to
1999. O'Brien also served on the
board of the City Park Alliance, the
board of advisors of the National
Association of Olmsted Parks, and
was a world judge for the Nations
in Bloom international horticultural competition.

| M A R C H 2 02 1 | PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G

Joe Crookham, CEO of Musco
Lighting, offered some personal
reflections on O'Brien. " He was a
visionary in the field of parks and
recreation. When Eric was in the
room, it was hard not to notice him.
He had that quality of leadership
that made you pay attention. He
was always committed to making
life better for people and was dedicated to improving life for young
people, " Crookham says. " When it
came to raising funds, he was pretty good at figuring out who had the
money and how to persuade them
that they would be contributing to
a great cause. His leadership was
influential at all levels. People like
Eric gave me faith to invest time
and money. He was a member of
the team you just did not want to
let down. " He says wryly, " I sat
around the table for a couple of
hours one time with Fran and Eric,
and I recall I even got to express an
opinion or two. "
O'Brien's daughter Meghan,
now a principal in the family company, says, " Parks and recreation
helped my dad make a living, and
he felt it was super important to
give back. And he did, tenfold. "
O'Brien's warm personality and
unswerving dedication to making
life better for all people through
parks and recreation will be truly
missed.
Richard J. Dolesh, NRPA's retired Vice
President of Strategic Initiatives,
continues to write for Parks & Recreation
magazine as an Editor at Large (rdolesh@
gmail.com).



March 2021 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2021 - Parks & Recreation

March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover1
March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover2
March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 1
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March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover3
March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - Cover4
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
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