Marie O'Brien

Honored by:Judy Stewart, Maureen Mentzer and Neal O'Brien
Brick location:E:28  map

"Your dad and I weren't able to go to college but we want you to be able to go."

Throughout our childhood, these words spoken by our mother reiterated the importance of education and our parents' desire for their three children to have the opportunity to go to college to further their education and have a better chance to "get ahead in life."

Our parents -- Marie Caroline Bahling O'Brien and Loyola "Tim" O'Brien -- graduated from high school during the Great Depression. College was a dream but not an option. Finding work of any kind was difficult. Money was in short supply; "There wasn't any," according to my mother.

That environment was the reason for the emphasis on higher education. This expectation of a college education was set early and we three children were prompted to do our best in school, be respectful, and appreciative. We learned how to work and do our share; money from summer jobs was saved for college.

In 1959 the oldest daughter, Judy, was the first child in our family to go to college, and the college of her choosing was Iowa State University. Maureen followed, and both girls eventually became home economics teachers. Maureen also received a master's degree in 1970 from Iowa State. Neal followed, majoring in animal science and graduating in 1976. Thus far, four of Marie and Tim’s grandchildren are Iowa State graduates.

On October 20, 1997, we will celebrate Marie O’Brien’s 80th birthday. On Mother’s Day 1997, we are adding her name to the bricks making up the Plaza of Heroines in the front of the Carrie Chapman Catt building at Iowa State. Marie is a heroine in our lives—and the lives of all her family—because of her strong, determined, unrelenting positive attitude and her desire to succeed and make the most of her life the challenges and opportunities given. She endured many hardships and difficult situations in her life. It’s her "can do" attitude and perseverance to not only make it through but to make the most of all situations that are her trademarks among those of us who know and love her.

Marie’s parents were Frank and Lillian Dransfeldt Bahling. She had two brothers, Gerald and Merwyn. They farmed 120 acres two miles west of Burt. Her grandparents had homesteaded this farm in Kossuth County. Marie graduated from Burt High School, took a summer course and taught country school for four years.

Her boyfriend, Tim O’Brien, left Whittemore and hitchhiked to California to find work. Marie and Tim were married Dec. 14, 1940, and six weeks later Tim received his draft notice and entered the Army in California. At this time, Marie went to beauty school. Before Judy was born, Pearl Harbor was bombed and that took Dad into WWII. He would return from the war when she was 3 ½ years old. He spent his time fighting as a foot soldier in the Aleutian Islands and South Pacific Islands. This was a very difficult time. Dad was away at war; Mom was raising a child and running a farm home without modern conveniences, and to make matters worse, her mother became very ill and Marie was called home to care for her.

Grandmother Bahling suffered many strokes plus heart attacks and lived until Judy was twelve years old. Quite a challenge, but somehow Mom managed. After the war, we continued to live in Burt. Maureen and Neal were born. Our parents eventually moved to Algona and into their own home. They bought and operated their own sanitation and moving business. Our parents loved to tent camp and eventually bought a cabin at Clear Lake. They later managed apartment buildings in Marshalltown and Des Moines. After Dad retired, they lived permanently in Clear Lake.

At age 65, Marie got her Realtors license and she continues to sell for Century 21, especially lake property. Tim died of Alzheimer’s disease on Oct. 24, 1994. Our parents had been married 54 years. Today, she continues to live in Clear Lake, sells real estate, and winters in Mercedes, Texas, with her sister-in-law, Barb Bahling.

Marie O’Brien is a driving force within our family. She has left each of us with a better appreciation for hard work and perseverance, respect, and appreciation for all people, dedication to what we are doing, setting high aspirations and doing what it takes to meet them, and above all, an understanding of the importance of a close family bond.

--Judith O’Brien Stewart, Maureen O’Brien Mentzer, Neal O’Brien

Family members attending Iowa State University:
Judy O’Brien Stewart 1959-1960 Voc. Home Ec. UNI 1968
Janine Stewart Whipps 1983 Agricultural Journalism
Douglas John Stewart 1984 Animal Science
Jennifer Lynn Stewart 1996 Public Service & Admin. In Agriculture
Maureen O’Brien Mentzer 1968 Home Econ. Education 1970 Masters Degree in Family Environment