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Brian Dennis O’Gorman
1936 – 2009
Dad was born in London, England on July 18th, 1936 to Christopher & Alice O’Gorman as the last of five
children. Due to Christopher’s military obligations, Dad and his sister Maureen were the only two of the
children not to have been born in Ireland.
Christopher Timothy O’Gorman was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1891. He played Gaelic Football, rowed
and boxed for St. Dunstan’s College before enlisting in an Irish Calvary unit during World War 1. Alice
Marie Jacques was born in Waterford, Ireland in 1894 into a family of land owners (a big deal in Ireland
at the time). They were married in Limerick in 1920 and left for England soon afterwards.
ENGLAND & THE WAR
Dad’s early years in London were during “The Blitz”, with air raid sirens
and German planes carpet bombing the city. Some of his first
memories were running to the bomb shelter in their back yard and
seeing their church a couple doors down on the same road take a
direct hit that turned it into rubble.
In 1943, with the houses directly in front and behind them demolished
from German bombs, the family decided to get the kids out of London.
They moved out to County Wiltshire in the bucolic Southwest of
England, a place reminiscent of Tolkien’s “Shire”.
The other important family development at the end of the War was
Dad’s oldest sister Eileen marrying a dashing American fighter pilot
named Philip Yates.
With England’s docks, industrial and commercial centers having suffered
repeated bombings, the economy after the War was in shambles. As Dad
entered his teens, he was more dynamic on the soccer pitch than in the
classroom. Career prospects were slim, and he started an apprenticeship at a
local hardware store.
Boredom had set in as an interesting offer came from Phil & Eileen, who had
moved back to the United States. They invited Dad to come over, live with
them and attend high school in America. Leaving his family at 15 years old
was very difficult for Dad, but leaving England at that time was not.
America was experiencing a post war economic boom. Prosperity abounded, and the U.S. had become
the economic and cultural center of the world.
Phil Yates was on his way to becoming Vice President of Continental Airlines, and prior to opening up
much of the Pacific to commercial air travel, he was in charge of a small airport in Hobbs, New Mexico.
Dad came over in 1952 and started his junior year at Hobbs Senior High School. He was a bit of a
celebrity as a handsome Irish-English boy, accent and all, in a small town in the American Southwest.
The local radio station interviewed him. He was captain of the soccer and track teams. He dated a
cheerleader and drove a ’49 Chevy.
Dad graduated from high school in 1955, and in the summer
immediately following, he totaled his car drag racing in the desert. He
wasn’t too fond of being told off by his older sister, so he told her
goodbye, in perhaps a less polite manner, walked downtown and joined
the United States Air Force.
After basic training in Michigan, the commanding officer of an Air Force
Base in France had heard about Dad’s soccer prowess, and got him
assigned to Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France, near the Rhine
It must have been very interesting being a young Englishman of Irish
ancestry serving in the American Military stationed in France. Dad
worked very hard to lose his accent as quickly as possible due to flack he
was getting from the other
The base commanding officer,
who would soon become a
good friend, made Dad captain
of a handpicked team of U.S.
Military all-star soccer players,
and they began playing French
Club Teams around France. They won the league.
These were good times and Dad always enjoyed reminiscing
about this part of his life. He was able to visit England
frequently on military transports to spend time with family, including his father who was nearing the
end of his days. He discovered a love for French cuisine and Alsatian wines. He had become drinking
buddies with the C.O. of his base, which resulted in a number of perks, and he was having fun dating
local French and German girls. Twice he was declared A.W.O.L. after getting stuck across the border in
Germany with a particular girlfriend.
After leaving the military, Dad headed for the West Coast of America to live on the ocean in Manhattan
Beach, just South of Los Angeles. Memories from this time include seeing an upstart surfing band called
the Beach Boys playing at local clubs, and dating stewardesses back when sexist airline hiring practices
were in full effect. He was working as a crew chief for PSA Airlines at the time, and one day on a whim,
he and his friend Dick Lawrey decided to road trip up to San Francisco.
San Francisco in the 60’s must have been quite a sight, and they decided to stay. After settling in, Dad
went back to school at Golden Gate University to earn a degree in import traffic management, and he
began working for an importer of fruit products from Asia.
One day in 1966, Dad and some of his buddies went out for beers
to the Rose & Thistle Pub on California Street, and there he met a
violinist and school teacher named Mary Wilson. She had grown up
in Scotland, and after a brief stay in Canada playing with the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra, she came to visit a friend in San
Francisco and never left. Following a six month courtship, they
Although they lived on the
Pan Handle, close to Haight-
Ashbury, during the Summer
of Love (’67), they most assuredly were not participants in “the
scene”. Mom was playing violin with the San Francisco Symphony
and Dad was working during the day and going to school at night.
My parents saved up to buy a house in Noe Valley, San Francisco,
and in 1969, I was born.
O’GORMAN GRAPHICS & ACCURATE MAILINGS
After a couple more years of Dad doing import/export and Mom working in publishing, they started
their first business together in 1971 called O’Gorman Graphics. Dad ran the printing presses, Mom was
the graphic designer and they both did sales. Through hard work and many late nights, they grew the
business into a success. Some of my earliest memories were being set up with a small television and
sleeping bag in the front office, while my folks pulled an all-nighter on printing presses in the back to
get job on deadline out in time.
My parents sold O’Gorman Graphics in 1978 and started a new business to capitalize on a growing
marketing trend: direct mail advertising. The new business was called Accurate Mailings, and within 4
years they had 130 employees.
Brian & Mary O’Gorman were living the American
Dream. Two first generation immigrants who
came to this country for better opportunities
based on an idea or two and whole lot of hard
As the businesses prospered, so did our lifestyle.
Through the late 70s and 80s we moved from
Millbrae, to San Mateo, to Newark to Healdsburg.
There were many memorable vacations, including
Caribbean cruises, Europe, Asia, Alaska and many trips to Mexico, which was a favorite destination of
our family over the years.
Sports were a big part of Dad’s life growing up and this continued through my childhood. Dad coached
my soccer teams and at one of our first practices he taught a group of eight year olds how to violently
slide tackle without getting called for a penalty. It was fun to have a ringer as a coach and per usual,
Dad’s team won the league.
Each year Dad and I would set the alarm for 5am to watch the Wimbledon Final. After watching Borg
play McEnroe one year, he took me out and taught me how to play tennis. San Francisco 49ers and
Giants games were a staple of our weekend activities from as far back as I can remember.
Following high school graduation, I left home for university in London, England. Around the same time,
a couple of close friends of Mom & Dad had left Healdsburg to retire in the South of Spain. With the
roost being empty, my parents decided to do the same, and they joined their friends in Spain. They
purchased two adjoining condos and combined them in a village called Polop, near the coastal resort
towns of Altea and Benidorm. There was a large group of British ex-pats there, and the bar scene on the
coast was vibrant.
Unfortunately, with no business to focus on and lots of free time, Dad was tempted by the Irish curse
that had crept up through the 1980’s, and Dad became very friendly with Scotch & Soda and their
siblings Rum & Coke.
Upon completion of the term in London, I joined my folks in Spain. For the next year we drove around
North Africa and most of Europe, including some very memorable times in Ireland visiting some long
I returned to the States to continue university in America in 1988, and sadly, my folks split up soon
Dad returned to Sonoma County at the end of the 1980’s. Shortly thereafter, as a result of 30 years of
smoking 1-2 packs of Lucky Strikes a day, plenty of scotch and the stress of starting two successful
businesses along with the breakup of his marriage, Dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of
Following a couple unsuccessful procedures, including radiation, he was given this grim prognosis: if he
were to undergo extensive surgery with a full laryngectomy and rebuild of his lower jaw, there was only
a 15% chance he would survive 5 years. If he decided against the procedure, he would not survive the
The surgery would require Dad to breathe through a stoma and communicate by writing on a board for
the rest of his life. It also took away two of Dad’s favorite things: eating good food and bullshitting. I
remember chatting with Dad as we drove down to UCSF on the day of the procedure knowing that was
the last time I would ever hear his voice.
It was during this period of time that I began to realize my Dad’s strength of character and unflappable
will to survive.
BATH & OAKLAND
Dad recovered from his surgery with his sister Maureen and her husband Gordon in beautiful Bath,
England. It was good for him to be around family near the place of his early childhood, and he took full
advantage of the local theater arts and pub culture.
Shortly after my graduation from university, Dad and I began sharing a spacious townhouse in Oakland
that was filled with sunlight, plants, music and laughter. This allowed him to spend half the year in Bath,
taking advantage of the lovely English summers, and the other half in the Bay Area, avoiding the cold
and wet English winters. It was the best of both worlds.
In 1997, I brought home an incredible woman who would become the love of my life and my dad’s
daughter in-law. Alexandra and I were married in Zihuatanejo, Mexico with my Dad in attendance as a
LIAM & SOPHIA
In 2002, we found a dream house in Cloverdale that would be perfect for starting a family, so the three
of us moved up in the fall.
Dad’s grandson Liam was born in 2003 and granddaughter Sophia Jane followed in 2005. Dad was over
the moon. The arrival of his grandchildren marked the beginning of a very special time in Dad’s life. He
was visibly more content. Afternoons spent assembling model airplanes or doll houses with the kids
would leave Dad, Liam & Sophia all smiling ear to ear. These were good times, indeed.
Dad had always distinguished himself as a very generous man, whether it was helping out a friend,
picking up the dinner tab or lending his son a few bucks for a jazz show during the lean college years.
This generosity was always on full display on birthdays and holidays, at which his grandkids usually had
more gifts to open up than they could keep track of.
After his initial diagnosis in 1991, through strength of will and perhaps touch of stubbornness, Dad lived
another eighteen years which allowed us to share our marriage, grandchildren and many fun and
poignant memories with him, for which we are eternally grateful.
Dad passed away peacefully among family at home on Tuesday, May 12, 2009.
He will be sadly missed.