When it comes to waterfowl, the name of John T. O’Brien is legendary – especially in Western New York. In his hometown of Batavia, he was known simply as Mr. Ducks. O’Brien, 86, passed away last Sunday, leaving behind an incredible Ducks Unlimited legacy we can all appreciate.
He started as a DU volunteer in 1970 upon the invitation of another local waterfowl icon, Hazard Campbell. Together the dynamic duck duo formed 33 DU Chapters in just three years , mentored dozens of DU leaders and developed training materials and established procedures that would become the foundation for the organization’s district and zone volunteer structure.
From 1977 to 1984, O’Brien served as DU’s New York State chairman and the state’s council chairman. He also served nationally as DU’s regional vice president, director at large andsSenior vice president of DU’s North Atlantic Flyway. He also assisted in forming another 11 DU chapters in the Empire State (including the Buffalo and Southtowns Chapters). In 2003, Ducks Unlimited dedicated 2,000 acres of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in O’Brien’s honor.
He is survived by his wife Betty. Not coincidentally, John’s wife became an important DU volunteer in 1977. She served as an area chair and state recording secretary and co-chaired several state conventions through the years, working alongside her husband. Friends are invited to pay their last respects Friday, March 16 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Gilmartin Funeral Home, Batavia.