George Michael O’Brien, 80, of Wellsburg, W.Va., passed away peacefully on Sunday, October 23, 2016, at his home.
Michael was born on February 12, 1936, in Wellsburg, the son of the late Hugh M. and Veronica (Barth) O’Brien. In addition to his parents he is preceded in death by his beloved wife Sharon Lee (Marsh Smith) whom he married May 31, 1985.
Michael graduated from St. John Elementary School and Wellsburg High School, a member of the class of 1954. He went on to attend Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and was graduated from West Liberty State College with a Board of Regent’s degree in 1983. He also graduated from the NYU School of Retail Shoe Management and attended numerous career seminars and training programs.
Michael was an active member of St. John’s Catholic Church in Wellsburg. He participated in many activities including the Wellsburg Fourth of July Committee serving as fund-raising chairman and general chairman in 1970; St John Catholic Church annual Mardi Gras, serving as chairman for over 25 years; the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce Christmas lighting chairman for more than 20 years; was well known as a member of the Wellsburg Applefest Committee from its inception in 1979 and served as chairman since 1982, he was also a member of the Johnny Apple Seed Society and portrayed the legendary pioneer in full costume including a metal pot hat. In 2006 he was honored as Volunteer of the Year by the Brooke Hancock Jefferson Regional Planning Commission and was recognized by the House of Delegates of the West Virginia Legislature as a history hero for his service to the state and region. In 1995, Michael was honored as Wellsburg Citizen of the Year. At the Pittsburgh Regional Shoe Show he was recognized as Shoe Retailer of the Year, an honor bestowed by shoe manufacturers and their representatives who service a five-state area. As a member of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Michael coordinated the bi-centennial re-enactment stop in Wellsburg in 2003. Re-enactors honored the gravesite of Patrick Gass, a member of the original 1803-1806 Lewis and Clark trip. Michael also was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Follansbee Council; Wellsburg Elks Lodge #1553; and the Wellsburg Lions Club. During his 45 years with the Lions Club he served as president three times and was involved in most of the club’s projects, including overseeing the club’s highway cleanup for years. For his service to the club and community, The Lions International Foundation named Michael a Melvin Jones Fellow for his “dedicated humanitarian service”, bestowing on him its highest recognition.
Michael was owner of Michael’s Shoes, formerly Barth’s Shoes Store. His first job in the family business was during the flood of 1942. He assumed ownership from his uncle and aunt Jack and Marcelline Bowers in 1969. The business, started by his mother and grandfather in 1920, closed in 2000.
He is survived by four children, Raymond “Butch” (Alisa) Smith of Wellsburg, Michael Smith of Follansbee, W.Va., Karan (Tim) Kleptz of Goshen, Ind., and Amy Pearson of Evanston, Wyo.; nine grandchildren, Donald Smith of Weirton, W.Va.; Brittany (Erik) Teaters of Wellsburg; Holly (Adam) Phoenix of New Whiteland, Ind.; Kevin (Ashley) Kleptz of Elkhart, Ind.; Janice (Bryson) Bontrager of Millersburg, Ind.; Kylie and Michaela Pearson of Evanston, Wyo.; Katherine and Karoline Smith of Follansbee, W.Va., great-grandchildren Jaxson Teaters of Wellsburg and Ava and Aiden Phoenix of New Whiteland; a sister, Mary Kay Hagan of Sarasota, Fla., nieces Michelle Pendleton of Sarasota, Fla., and Julie (Jeff) Maren of Lynchburg, Va., and nephews Kevin (Emelinda) Hagan of Venice, Fla., and Philip (Gail) Hagan of Coppell, Texas, and several great-nieces and great-nephews and one great-great-niece.
Interment will be in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Weirton, WV.