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Former Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric CEO Dies at 85

Bernard O'Brien died in Evanston on Oct. 22. He had a long career with Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric and served as CEO from 1984-1991; he was also a dedicated volunteer and traveled around the world.

Former Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric CEO Dies at 85

Bernard C. (Barry) O’Brien died in Evanston, Illinois on October 22, 2012 surrounded by his loving family after a brief illness. He was 85 years old. 

Mr. O’Brien was born in Pittsburgh, PA, the son of Lillian McBride O’Brien and Bernard C. O’Brien. He attended Culver Military Academy as an Emily Jane Culver Scholar. After graduation, he joined the U. S. Army Signal Corps, serving in South Korea. When he finished his military service, he earned his B.S. in Accounting from Northwestern University and joined the Chicago office of Arthur Andersen & Co. 

In 1954, he married Mary Louise Kelsch of Erie, PA, and moved to southern Ohio as an accounting supervisor for an electric utility. He became a CPA in 1959.

In 1960, Barry joined Iowa- Illinois Gas and Electric as Assistant Controller in Davenport, IA. The next year he became Controller and Chief Accounting Officer. He was active nationally in his chosen profession, serving as Chairman of the Accounting Divisions of both the American Gas Association and the Edison Electric Institute and working to develop utility accounting principles with the Financial Accounting Standards Board. For three years he was a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board Advisory Council. Barry loved accounting, considering it an art rather than a science.

In March 1984, he became Chairman, President, and CEO of Iowa-Illinois Gas and Electric. He served in that capacity until he retired in 1991.

During his business career he served on numerous local boards and committees. At various times he chaired the Davenport Chamber of Commerce, Quad-City Development Group, the Davenport Club, and the Rod and Gun Club. While chairing Junior Achievement (JA) of Scott County, he initiated the merger of Rock Island and Scott County JAs into the current strong Quad-Cities JA.

He had a lifelong interest in education and he was particularly committed to St. Ambrose University, serving on its Board of Trustees from 1986 to 2010. “In recognition of his outstanding business career and his contributions to the economic and civic life of the community,” St. Ambrose awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration in 1994.

Barry remained active in retirement. He was especially involved in improving health care. He was a participant in the 1994 consolidation of Davenport’s Mercy and St. Luke’s Hospitals into Genesis Health System, and was elected the first Chairperson of the Genesis Health System and Genesis Medical Center. In 2000 he was elected to the Board of the Quad City Plus 60 Friendship Club. He served in various capacities with the Plus 60 Club and was President in 2005. He and Mary Lou traveled extensively, visiting 50 countries and territories.

His lovely wife of 52 years, Mary Lou, preceded him in death in 2006. Barry is survived by his caring son Michael and daughter Nora and their spouses LeeAnn and Ian, two granddaughters and four grandsons, and a wonderful extended family. Barry was a man of quiet optimism and confidence—a man in whom competiveness was mixed perfectly with a clear sense of right and wrong and fair play. He was selfless, willing to sacrifice for others, patriotic, and self-reliant. He loved life and his family and possessed an unshakable belief in a higher power. He was well satisfied with his life spent with his fine family, good friends and associates, his faithful companions Muffin and Darby, and the best Guardian Angel ever.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Interment will be in Erie, Pa.

Editor's Note: This obituary was submitted by a member of O'Brien's family. To see more obituaries on Evanston Patch, visit  http://evanston.patch.com/obituaries.

 

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