David O’Brien, a long-time Cannon Beach resident and the founder of Tryad Ministries, died in his home of a prolonged illness the morning of April 1 at age 81. He was in the presence of his family, friends and his cat, Nala.
“David was always the joker, always up to pulling tricks on people, and his final trick was passing away on April Fool’s Day,” his younger brother Mike O’Brien said. “David would have gotten a kick out of that.”
Born in Portland on Dec. 27, 1933, David O’Brien had cerebral palsy and was often seen greeting people as he rode around Cannon Beach in his motorized scooter.
“He was always so happy to see people,” said Marlene Laws, a Cannon Beach resident and friend of David’s who saw him for the last time the weekend before he passed. “It was hard to understand David sometimes, but, after you got to know David, you could.”
Though David’s condition affected his mobility, it didn’t touch his intelligence, according to his younger sister, Ellen Clibbon.
She described David’s mind with awe. Her brother, she said, had a “fantastic memory.” He had no trouble remembering people’s phone numbers — “It was like a Rolodex up there” — and performing quick mental calculations with intimidating ease.
Though David possessed “such a keen mind,” he will be remembered best for “his open heart, his easy laugh, his smile, his being so interested in what others were doing, and caring about them,” Laws said.
“David will be remembered because of the way he dealt with people — and the love he had for the people who were around him,” Mike O’Brien said.
Cat Wollen, who knew David through his involvement with the Cannon Beach Community Church, said “there was always a countenance about him of joy ... There was something in his demeanor that, when he left, your day was better.”
“He was like the father I never had,” said Jenee Pearce-Mushen, a Cannon Beach resident who knew David for about 15 years, and whose father died when she was less than a year and a half old.
David’s love for his fellow travelers found its highest expression in Tryad Ministries, a ministry he founded in 1975 as an annual conference held at the Cannon Beach Christian Conference Center for disabled folks and their caregivers — a ministry which continues to this day. It now organizes an annual conference in Denver, Colo., that draws attendees from across the Northwest, Clibbon said.
“Under his leadership, Tryad Ministries became involved in bringing God’s word to the handicapped in a variety of ways,” Pearce-Mushen wrote.
David had been making plans to commemorate Tryad’s 40th anniversary later this year, but “the Lord had other plans for him,” Mike O’Brien said.
“Tryad Ministries, hopefully, will carry on,” said Laws, who sits on the organization’s board of directors.
He was preceded in death by his younger brother, Shaun O’Brien, and his older sister, Carolyn Haley.
“Our community and his family will always remember David as an individual that loved God, life and had the tenacity to always deal with adversity with a smile,” Pearce-Mushen wrote.
A celebration of life is schedule for 3:30 p.m. May 17 on the Christian Conference Center grounds.
“I’m going to miss that man,” she said. “I think we’re really blessed that we had him.”