William ‘Billy’ O’Bryan Jr.

VALLEY, Neb. — Our dad, William “Billy” O’Bryan, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at Valhaven Rehabilitation Center in Valley, Nebraska.

His last act before falling into his longest nap, though, was to throw a cup of tea at a nurse. He wasn’t proud of that, but it was symbolic that after a lifetime of doing exactly what he wanted, he had to rely completely on others and it was just intolerable. We can’t thank enough all of the wonderful people that tried to make his last years better. It was a mountainous task to compete with the previous 70 odd years of unbridled life he was used to, but it meant so much to us that you tried.

Bill was an entrepreneur who would consider it an affront if he had a boring obituary. He had a tremendous eye for opportunities, including raising organic grass-fed beef, squeezing oil and gas out of stubborn shale using innovative fracking techniques and safer chemicals and investing in barren land that would eventually generate bidding wars by corporate behemoths. He did all of those things, just 30 years too early to make any money for himself. While he’d have loved to have hit those jackpots, he didn’t dwell on what could have been, but instead enjoyed seeing others find success while charting out his own next play (which he never doubted would come).

He was a dreamer who always had his eyes looking forward for a chance to do something new and create his own opportunities. His risks didn’t always pan out, but he thought any failures were just data that showed a way not to do something, even if he wasn’t the one it helped. He never had a boss or punched a time clock, and living without a net was hard (please take mental health problems seriously). However, he treasured the chances America offered a farm kid from a tiny town in Kansas, and he was determined to take advantage of them and see others continue to have the same opportunities. He measured success by the ideas you have, the chances you take and the effort you make. Dad’s legacy is his spirit of entrepreneurship and those who carry it on, especially those who fail and get back up again. He reminded all of us that God gave us this life and we shouldn’t be scared to live it.

Bill was born Jan. 14, 1939, in St. Paul. He attended Benedictine College, where he studied economics and history and spent most of his life in the cattle, land and oil businesses. He married Anna Marie (Dick) in 1972, and they lived much of their life in Southeast Kansas, where his adventures were at their peak, and later moved to Nebraska. Bill was filled with pride by their four kids, Ed, Megan, Sean “Frankie” and Cailin; and seven grandkids, Ryan, Erin, Ethan, Sasha, Anna, Weston and Jackson. His parents were Margaret Mary (Casey) and William E. “Ed” O’Bryan, and he had seven sisters and three brothers, Winnie, Margaret Mary, Charlene, Mary Alice, Ruth, Grace, Katie, Casey, Roddy and Miles. Bill had 35 nieces and nephews, and was particularly close to Chip, Tim and David Power, who he enjoyed sharing his love of the land with.

A private service was held by his children and a remembrance memorial will be held in St. Paul in summer. He would have appreciated donations to St. Francis Catholic Church in St. Paul, your local school’s Future Business Leaders of America or Endless Journey Hospice. In lieu of those our dad would have wanted you to visit someone who is lonely, forgive someone and start talking again or get involved in solving a problem in your community.

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