Thomas Thaddeus O'Brien

November 19, 1933September 9, 2012

Thomas Thaddeus O’Brien (“Mister”)

Thomas Thaddeus O’Brien (“Mister”), age 78, was born in Everett, Washington on November 19, 1933 to William J. and Mary Manilla (Prindiville) O’Brien. Due to an unanticipated illness, on September 9, 2012, he passed away peacefully in the loving presence of his wife, son and daughter.

Growing up in Everett, Washington as the seventh child out of nine children in an Irish Catholic family, he learned quickly the give and take of making it in a world that presented many challenges.

As an elementary age school boy, he gave the nuns at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Immaculate Conception elementary schools a few gray hairs. However, they managed to mold his character into the man we know today.

Growing up his love for football guided the direction he would take in life. From the time he was old enough to understand the game of football, he knew his destiny. From listening to Notre Dame football on the radio as a young boy, to being Frank Leahy’s water boy for the Fighting Irish against the University of Washington at Husky stadium, to quarter backing the Everett High School Seagulls, to becoming a high school teacher and football coach – he recognized that teaching and the game of football provided the platform for him to make a difference in kid’s lives.

Tom graduated from Everett High School in 1952. After a brief stay at Everett Junior College, he enlisted in the US Army. After serving his country for three years, he was honorably discharged in 1955.

The G.I. Bill and many part-time jobs, gave him the opportunity to continue his education toward a college degree from Seattle University in 1960. He later earned his master’s degree from Seattle University. His administrative credentials were from Central Washington University.

Tom began his teaching and coaching career in 1960 at Marquette High School where he began to apply the lessons he had learned from his teachers and coaches. And it was here that Tom became known as “Mister”. The consolidation of Yakima’s Catholic high schools in 1967 took him to the new Carroll High School where he continued to teach and coach until 1974. He often recalled and shared the fond memories of those years. Some of his happiest moments were when former players and students called or visited to talk with “Mister”. He absolutely loved his Marquette and Carroll students and players.

Davis High School was his next opportunity and he loved this new challenge. “Mister’s” reputation followed him from Carroll and the Davis students soon learned that “Mister” meant you got to class on time, acted with integrity and treated others the way you would want to be treated. Here too, he fell in love with his students and players. The Davis students and players hold a special place in his heart. At Davis, he had the special opportunity to coach his son in football and follow his daughter on the volleyball court.

Next to watching Notre Dame football and coaching football, his passion for teaching his students United States history was one of his life’s missions. Of course, he did get side tracked once in awhile, adding in a bit of Irish history along the way. Due to his great Irish story telling skills, sometimes his students (and son and daughter) were a little confused as to which wars and U.S. battles he actually participated in!

After hanging up his football cleats and whistle in 1982, he completed his administrative internship at Madison Alternative High School (Yakima School District). Once again, he fell in love with the students and staff he worked with as an administrative intern.

“Mister” retired from the Yakima School District in 2000. His last stop in his long and fulfilling career brought him back to where he started in parochial schools, the new La Salle High School. While at La Salle, he continued to be as active a participant in the football program as his health permitted and assisted any way he could from home. Unfortunately, this year his health did not permit him to attend opening night kick-off for the La Salle 2012 football season, but he was with them in spirit and always will be.

From Marquette, to Carroll, to Davis and finally La Salle, “Mister” relished every moment with every student, ball player, colleague and member of the community. Education and coaching were his passion. Every student and ball player held a special place in his heart.

Personal honors include: 1983 Selected to be the Head Coach of the East for the East/West All Star football team, 1990 Induction into the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame, 1998 Teacher of the Year for the Yakima School District/Finalist for Teacher of the Year for the State of Washington, 2002 Fred Redmon Service Award, Recipient of the Crystal Apple Educator Award for Yakima School District.

He was a lifetime member of the American Coaches Association and a past president of the Washington State Coaches Association.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Jack, Bernard, Mickie and Denis; and his sisters, Mary Ellen Keast and Josephine Hatch. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Alice; and their children Thomas M. O’Brien (Julie) of Kennewick, WA; and daughter Mary E. O’Brien (Doug) of Everett, WA; two grandchildren, Sarah C. O’Brien and Thomas R. O’Brien, both of Kennewick, WA; a sister, Eileen Cassidy of Riverside, CA; and a brother, Robert E. O’Brien of San Mateo, CA; along with numerous nieces and nephews.

Tom was a devout Catholic throughout his life and member of St. Paul’s Cathedral parish. He is now resting in peace in God’s hands.

Visitation and viewing will be held at the Keith & Keith Ninth Avenue Chapel on Thursday and Friday, September 13 and 14 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Vigil services will be held Friday, September 14, 2012 at 7:00 PM at Keith and Keith Ninth Avenue Chapel. Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 10:00 AM at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Burial will be at Evergreen Cemetery (4504 Broadway), Everett, WA on September 21, 2012 at 2:00 PM at the family plot.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers memorials may be made to La Salle High School, 3000 Lightning Way, Yakima, WA or the charity of your choice. To celebrate the life of Mr. Thomas O’Brien and share a memory visit


  • Vigil Service Friday, September 14, 2012
  • Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, September 15, 2012
  • Committal Service Friday, September 21, 2012

Thomas Thaddeus O'Brien

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September 17, 2012

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time. Both Ed & I have fond memories of "Mister"

Ed & Denise (Gamache) LaBissoniere

Terry Cronkhite

September 16, 2012

I learned many life lessons from Mister while playing football and attending Carroll High School.

I remember fondly History class which we affectionately called "Uncle Tom's Story Hour". All we had to do was to get Mister talking about Notre Dame and the hour was done.

God Speed, Mister...

September 15, 2012

Coach O'Brien's positive impact on people will endure. His iconic sayings like "whisper time, etc." will cause reflection and a warm smile on our faces.
I thank GOD for placing him in my life.

J.L. McKinstry and family

Jerry Courcy

September 15, 2012

MISTER...I remember as an incomming Carroll frosh football player in 1972 having had my hair cut to what I thought was an appropriate length. Mister asked me to have a seat in his office, came behind me and snipped off more hair! Then he gave me $10 to go get it fixed. That winter we listened to an Ali-Frazier fight when he gave me a ride home because I'd sustained a severe leg bruise in wrestling and he was concerned, making sure my mom knew about my injury. And a couple of years ago he and his family were doing business with me, and I could see he wasn't his usual firey self. So again (as we all did) I addressed him as MISTER and we spoke of the past, his History class where I sat up front (it was wet!) Johnny Allen of Jesuit H.S. and the impact he had on me as a man. His blue eyes twinkled and his grin was great as he told me how it was. Love, Respect and Honor. He gave and received it in spades. Truely a man whos impact has reached far and wide. Be at peace Mister; and for his family a prayer to ease your hearts. God Bless.

September 14, 2012

I am saddened to hear the passing of your loved one.My name is Donna Dobie Saint Germain,I am the widow of James Dobie.I am unable to attend your brothers funeral,because of other commitments,however my thought and prayers are with you all.Gene I know you must remember your stay in San Jose with us.I have moved back to Yakima area.Jim and I spoke often of your visits with us.Again I am sorry for the loss of your brother,and will remember you and your family in prayer.Donna Dobie St.Germain

Angela Arralde

September 14, 2012

I had the honor of visiting Mister in the hospital the day before he died. He was such an important influence in my life, and the lived of many others. He asked me to sing for him that day, and asked me to say a few Ave Maria's. I did both. It is impossible to say no to Mister! I will also always follow the advice he gave me every time I saw him... "Keep the Faith"

My love and prayers to Alice, Tom and Mary, and all his family.

Amy Balmer

September 14, 2012

We are deeply saddened to hear of Tom's passing. John and I are grateful to have known this incredible man and will never forget the the ways in which he touched our lives. We hold the O'Brien family in our prayers and ask the God of all comfort to surround them during this time.

Dave Ege

September 14, 2012

The teaching and coaching community has lost a great man. It was my good fortune to have Mister as both a teacher and coach at Davis High in the late seventies. I learned many life lessons along the way that still serve me today. God Bless You Mr. O'Brien......Dave Ege

Javier Gómez

September 14, 2012

I was an Spanish exchange student 20 years ago at Davis, but I still remember as it was yesterday Mister O'Brien's voice, his cap, his passion teaching History and his respect for his students. He was one of the finest and dearest teachers of my life, and I was terribly sad when I read about his passing away. I feel lucky for having the privilege to attend his classes. He was indeed a 'fighting irish' and a proud american. My condolences to his family, his friends and to all my dear Yakima community

Taylor Stubblefield

September 14, 2012

I would like to believe that everyone in Yakima has been positively influenced by Mr. O'Brien. I loved his stories, his catchy sayings and of course his life lessons.
I remember him almost cursing at me when we beat his beloved Irish in 2004. He was a great role model for me as a person and as a coach. He cared for all his students and players and we believed it.

God bless Mr. O'Brien and his family