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Lee O'Brien

Lee Darrell O’Brien of West Des Moines died October 31, 2020.

Lee was born on November 8, 1948 near the Iowa State Fair Grounds on the eastside of Des Moines. He graduated from Dowling Catholic High School and received an undergraduate degree from Loras College in Dubuque. He served in the United States Army and was honorably discharged during the Vietnam Era. He earned a Masters Degree in History from the University of South Dakota. Lee worked for Woodbury County as a general relief worker. He then became a social worker for the Department of Social Services for the State of Iowa with a focus in subsidized adoption and foster care. Lee then followed his dream of becoming a writer. He was the author of two books about the history of racing at the Iowa State Fair (Dirt Track Legends Volume 1 & 2). He was a respected historian who was interviewed by Iowa Public Television and numerous publications about the history of racing.

Lee’s biggest joy in life was being a loving husband and father. His love, patience, compassion, and sense of humor will be greatly missed.

Lee was an avid historian and enjoyed researching family genealogy. He was an enormous racing fan and was a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Induction Committee. He loved being outside, fishing, butterfly hunting, and flying kites. His favorite place to visit was the Iowa State Fair. He took pride in his garden, especially when it came to taking care of his roses. After suffering a stroke in 2002, Lee’s activities changed. He was a proud Catholic who enjoyed weekly home visits from the volunteers at Sacred Heart Church of West Des Moines where he was a parishioner. He also liked to keep himself educated about politics and issues in the world. He loved cheering on the Cubs, collecting racing memorabilia, and sharing in a hearty laugh.

Lee was proceeded in death by his parents, Ethel Hartzer O’Brien and Jaques (Jack) O’Brien. He is survived by his wife, Glenda (Fry) O’Brien of West Des Moines; his daughter, Erin O’Brien (Kristopher Smith) of Audubon; his brother, Terry O’Brien (Donna) of Kansas; and numerous family and friends.

Lee will be cremated with a private viewing for immediate family. To honor Lee’s legacy any memorial contributions can be made in his name to the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa.


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