Edward J. O'Brien

January 16, 1953 ~ December 13, 2021 (age 68)


Edward James O’Brien, 68, of Loretto, passed away on December 13, after a long illness. Born in Philadelphia, PA, and raised in Baltimore, MD, Ed came to Loretto in 1972 to attend what was then Saint Francis College. The big-city lad fell in love with Cambria County and never left. Fascinated by the mining tradition of the area, Ed became a coal miner “as an adventure.” In 1979, he founded Wicklow Fuel Co., in Gallitzin, while working at Bethlehem Mine 33 in Ebensburg. The fuel company, named for his ancestral county in Ireland, soon expanded to sell landscaping supplies as well as coal, oil, and kerosene. If mining was an adventure for Ed and the fuel company a growing business, farming became a way of life. In 1989, Ed bought a 62 acre tract of depleted farmland near Bradley Junction and turned it into a thriving sheep farm called Brinkwood Farms. Through an elaborate system of ponds and water distribution, he created rich grazing land that stopped the earlier erosion of the soil and welcomed sheep, dogs, and llamas, and he stocked the ponds with fish. For his considerable achievement, Ed won two awards from the Cambria County Conservation District in 1992: Farmer of the Year and Outstanding Conservation Cooperator.  For relaxation, Ed embraced a variety of hobbies, including skiing, horseback riding, surfing, golfing, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. And then there was his love of the arts and literature. An avid reader of fiction and history, he had a particular fondness for the mystery novels of Louise Penny, and when Northern Cambria-born novelist Jennifer Haigh read a chapter of Baker Towers at the Gallitzin Library, Ed talked at length with her about her accurate depiction of local mining. Ed and his beloved wife, Barb, embraced all the arts, devoting considerable time to the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. Ed became a member of SAMA’s Board of Trustees in 2011, and he and Barb received the organization’s Volunteerism Award in 2017. Of all the arts, music was, as Barb puts it, Ed’s soul. Despite a devastating cancer diagnosis in 2016, Ed continued to play his guitar with a variety of musician friends. He could often be found on Saint Patrick’s Day at P.J.’s Tavern in Cresson or in a group session at Malcotti’s Tavern in Twin Rocks. For several years, Ed and Barb attended the Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City to hear the Paul Winter Consort drive the cold winter away, but Ed was clearly a man for all seasons. Ed was preceded in death by his father, Edward J. O’Brien, Sr.; mother, Lillian O’Brien; sisters, Theresa O’Brien and Anne Rullman; brother-in-law, David Rullman, and nephew: Mark Rullman. Ed is survived by Barb, his wife and beloved partner in every aspect of his life; daughter: Melissa O’Brien Peppetti (Joel) of Hollidaysburg; Grandchildren: Nikolas Peppetti, Lukas Peppetti, and Kandace Peppetti; Sister: Eileen O’Brien Zubrowski (David) of Watertown, MA; Nieces: Selena Nieto of Wretham, MA, Nicole Shaw of Bozeman, MT, and Karen Rullman of Garner, NC; Nephew: Brien Rullman of Los Angeles, CA; and Ed’s many colleagues, musicians, and other friends. Because the Winter Solstice was especially important for Ed and Barb, a service will be held for Ed at the Immaculate Conception Chapel on the campus of Saint Francis University in Loretto on December 22 at 2:00 p.m. An Irish Gathering will follow at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Loretto. Donations in memory of Ed O’Brien may be made to Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Doctors Without Borders, American Cancer Society, and The Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Arrangements by Gibbons Funeral Home, 301 Church Street, Gallitzin, PA 16641               

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Time of Remembrance
December 22, 2021

2:00 PM
Immaculate Conception Chapel
117 Evergreen Drive St. Francis University
Loretto, PA 15940

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