American Veteran 01

William Joseph O'Brien

May 15, 1921 ~ December 14, 2020 (age 99)


O’BRIEN, William Joseph (Bill) died December 14, 2020 at age 99, due to COVID-19. He was the beloved husband of the late Helen (nee Hodges) for 72 years.

Bill was an exemplar of character and duty for his large, loving family. He was the father of seven: Michael (Kathy), Tom (Dianne), Mary (Gary Clapp), Patrick (the late Barbara), Chuck (Sue), Bill (Claire) and Joe (Joy). Grandfather of 17: Meg O’Brien (Terry Dull), Erin Evans (Gary), Cara O’Brien (Chester Winowiecki), Mari Birman (Mike), Amy Klamkin (Chris), Dan Amori (Shannon), Tim O’Brien (Anna), Patrick O’Brien (Kate), Katie Klebonis (Dave), Shawn O’Brien (Amy), Shannon O'Brien (Sean O'Neal), Liam O’Brien, Luke O’Brien, Caitlin Hotchkiss (Will), Mike O’Brien, Kelly O’Brien and Dan O’Brien. Great-grandfather of 29.

A member of the Greatest Generation, Bill spent much of his life in service to his country and community. He enlisted in 1942 to become a pilot for the U.S. Marine Corps. He flew combat missions in Korea for which he was decorated with two Distinguished Flying Crosses citing his “skilled airmanship, marked courage and unswerving devotion to duty” in successful low-altitude runs while under fire. He was also awarded three Air Medals, among many other decorations. Bill continued to serve in the U.S. Marine Reserves, where he attained the rank of colonel before retiring in 1972. 

Bill also served as a firefighter on the Detroit Fire Department before the war and returned to become an investigator on the arson squad, retiring after 26 years. He went on to work at Michigan Consolidated Gas and was later a vice president for security for the National Bank of Detroit.

Bill was an active volunteer with the Knights of Columbus and at Notre Dame High School where he has had sons enrolled every year from 1959 to 1981. He was involved for many years with the Redcoats, a retired military officers association. 

Bill was born to Joseph and Elsa (nee Hagenjos) O’Brien, the oldest of eight children. He was preceded in death by his brothers Robert, John (Jack) and sisters Judy and Barbara. He is survived by three sisters: Kathleen Sims of Auburn, Calif., JoAnn Perry of Palm Desert, Calif. and Delores Ericson of Covina, Calif.

There will be a private service for the immediate family. A memorial Mass will be held at a later date.

The funeral service will be live-streamed on Facebook at 11:30 a.m., Friday, Dec. 18. The video will start a few minutes before the service. Please use the following link:

Entombment will follow at Resurrection Cemetery.
Full military honors committal service from the cemetery will be live-streamed about 20 minutes after memorial service and can be viewed at this link:

Memorial contributions may be made to the Capuchin Services Center in Detroit.

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and order from the State of Michigan, face masks must be worn at all times, proper social distancing is required and guests are limited to 25 individuals at a time.

To send flowers to William's family, please visit our floral store.


Virtual Service
December 18, 2020

11:30 AM
Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home - Sterling Heights
13650 E. 15 Mile Road
Sterling Hgts., MI 48312


Resurrection Cemetery
18201 Clinton River Road
Clinton Twp, MI 48038


The Capuchins
1820 Mt. Elliot Street, Detroit MI 48207

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