Neil O’Brien, a former executive at Oxxford Clothing and Brioni, died Monday, September 21 at the age of 81.
O’Brien is survived by his wife of 47 years, Lynn; children John O’Brien and wife Katie, Dr. Erin O’Brien and husband Dr. Dennis Kellar, Meghan O’Brien and husband Chris Faust, and Michael O’Brien; and eight grandchildren, along with many other family members and friends.
He was a devoted family man throughout the years, coaching his children’s athletic teams and attending their special events. He truly cherished Sunday dinners with his family and his sister Connie. In retirement, he most enjoyed the time he spent with his grandchildren. O’Brien was also a lifelong Cub’s fan.
A personal friend of O’Brien, Ken Shaia of Shaia’s Men’s Clothing, told MR, “Neil always made sure to make his friends feel loved and looked after.”
Ken goes on to share, “Twenty five years ago after a Brioni trunk show in Birmingham, Neil could tell I was not myself. After dinner he asked me to go have a drink one-on-one to talk. Not only did he take hours out of his busy schedule, he then went home and wrote me one of the most endearing hand-written letters. The letter included personal advice and advice about our industry. Neil assured me that what I was going through would only make me stronger. Although the letter was written 25 years ago, he constantly called to check in on the matter.”
J.L. Shaia, also of Shaia’s Men’s Clothing, told MR, “Even though Neil had retired years ago from Brioni, he and I talked two or three times every year. I know Neil had lots of clients, but he sort of adopted Ken and me as family and he always wanted to know how we were doing. I am looking at a Christmas card he sent to Ken and me just this past Christmas. It is a photo of Neil and his wife, surrounded by their children and eight grandchildren, with a note that says, ‘Thinking of you, hope you are on the top of the world.’ Rest in peace, Neil, I will forever remember our friendship. ”
Close friend Carl Slesinger of Larrimor’s recalls, “In the Chicago factory showroom of Oxxford, when Neil was showing us the line, Jack MacDonald would come in to look at our selection. Jack would point to a swatch and ask Neil, ‘Did we have Carl in mind when we picked this swatch?’ Neil was the stability in the company as Oxxford went through ownership changes; he was the constant. When he left Oxxford the only company worthy of his talent and commitment was one that had the quality and reputation equal to his standard. Brioni was that company. I certainly will miss him.”
“An outstanding gentleman” says Joe Barrato, who worked with O’Brien at Brioni. “He impacted so many people in our industry with his kind and caring nature. He was an exceptional old-school veteran when our industry was a much more intimate place.”
Visitation for O’Brien will be held today, Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at the Ahlgrim Family Funeral Home in Palatine, IL. The funeral will be held on Thursday, September 24, 2015 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Inverness, IL.
The family would like to thank the staff of Good Shepherd Hospital and Alden Estates of Barrington for the exceptional care they provided. In lieu of flowers, donations to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in memory of O’Brien would be appreciated. For information, please call 847-358-7411.