A friend of a friend-Dennis O’Brien and Barry O’Brien-March 25

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for March 25, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

The friend that I am writing about today has been a lot of things to me. Barry O’Brien is currently the dean of the School of Business at Francis Marion. Barry and I go back to 1977 when I first met him. He is a former basketball player at UNC Pembroke (Pembroke State when he played there) that I have had the honor to call a roommate, neighbor, colleague, and of course friend.

At the time I met Barry he was enrolled in the Ph.D program at University of South Carolina with the intended goal to come to UNC Pembroke and teach Economics. He came to Pembroke in 1978 and remained there for 10 years. When he first got to Pembroke he lived with me a period of time especially in the summer of 1979 as he and his wife Pam were in the process of moving from South Carolina to Lumberton, NC.

I left Pembroke in 1980 to go to Western Carolina but after five years I got the chance to come back as Head Basketball Coach in 1985. Barry would be at Pembroke my first three years as Head Coach and he gave my wife a great tip on a house that was located just a block from his. Barry at the time lived on the corner of West 21st and Floyd St. in Lumberton and told us about a three bedroom brick ranch located on the corner of West 22nd and Floyd St. He said the owners were Jerry and Janet Owen and they really wanted to sell. We arrived in Pembroke in August and were living in a home that my wife’s family owned in Laurel Hill, NC. We went and saw the house Barry turned us on to and agreed to purchase it. We moved in and became Barry’s neighbors in November 1985. We moved in with two children and the recent news that child number three was arriving in July 1986.

The three years that Barry was our neighbor we had block parties, pool parties, and he was almost a daily visitor at 5 p.m. for a beer out of our kegerator. Barry was generous in letting our kids use his backyard swimming pool. He added life and vitality to our world. Barry and Pam had a son named Kevin that was the approximate age of our two oldest so they were playmates. We also had the three daughters of Layton and Diane Britt living next door to Barry and Pam that kept our children busy.

Barry being a former basketball player was very supportive to me the coach. He was more than helpful when we had recruits come to visit and a number of my players went thru the business department. Barry would also be at all the games and could give me some great pointers and feedback.

Barry joined Francis Marion faculty in 1988 after leaving UNC Pembroke. He was appointed Dean of the School of Business in 2002. Prior to becoming the Dean of the School of Business, he served as the Director of the MBA Program and as the Interim Dean for the School of Business. He has done extensive traveling for Francis Marion and is an extremely well liked and popular figure on their campus.

Barry has been involved in some of the funnies stories I have ever heard. He has either told them or been a part of the story. One of the best is Barry is in demand as a consultant to different law firms. He is an economic expert and if a case involves someone who has been injured he often is asked to testify on the potential loss of lifetime earnings to that individual in their respective career. In the 1980’s he was in a North Carolina courtroom waiting for his case to be heard. He was listening to the case scheduled before his. The plaintiff was filing a case against CSX alleging that the train engineer was incompetent or drunk. The plaintiff stated he was walking along the tracks and at the last second the engineer finally sounded the train horn. That startled the plaintiff and he tumbled down the track embankment fracturing his leg. The engineer stopped the train a half mile from where the man injured himself and checked on his condition.

The judge asked the plaintiff a couple of questions and was getting exasperated by the plaintiff’s weak case in regards to CSX being negligent or the engineer being intoxicated. Finally the judge asked the plaintiff; “How did you determine if the engineer was drunk?” The plaintiff stated the man face was ruddy in complexion. The judge trying to trick the plaintiff asked him to use that scientific criteria and determine if anyone in the courtroom today is intoxicated. The plaintiff rose and walked around the entire room he went past the bailiff, the prosecutor, and finally the judge. He sat down and said “Your honor if I didn’t know any better I would say you had a few belts before we got started this morning”. The courtroom roared, the judge slammed the gavel to the bench and dismissed the case against CSX.

One of Barry closest friends was someone he wasn’t related to but had the same last name. His friend was Dennis O’Brien from Lumberton, NC.

The Friend-BARRY O’BRIEN-depicted on left with my wife and I.

Barry O'Brien UNCP

The Friend of the Friend-DENNIS O’BRIEN-he is buried at Meadowbrook Cemetry in Lumberton, NC

Dennis O'Brien

Tennis Competitors

Dennis O’Brien lived in Lumberton on West 25th not too far from Barry O’Brien. The two were both Catholics but Barry would tell you Dennis was the stronger of the two when it came to going to church. Dennis and Barry were both tennis fanatics and both were unbelievable competitors.

They had many an afternoon playing sets of tennis and then sharing a lot of beer together. Dennis was also an unbelievable competitor when it came to his battle with cancer. He took the very poor odds he was given with pancreatic cancer and lived much longer than any doctor predicted. He didn’t just survive he lived.

I knew Dennis and believe his attitude and positive outlook on life were the reasons he was able to battle his cancer for such an extended period of time.  Dennis died on August 28, 1995 at Myrtle Beach, SC.

Dennis was a clinical psychologist and professional associate with Robeson Professional Counseling Associates and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Pembroke State University now called UNC Pembroke.  Dennis was a member of St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church where he served as an Eucharistic Minister, a member and past president of the Knights of Columbus, a member of the Marist College Alumni Society, a member of the North Carolina Alumni Association and a member of Phi Chi. He was active in providing service to our community and was on the Board of Directors of Robeson House.

Dennis was married to Jane and had two sons, Sean  and  Christopher.

If they have a tennis court in the next life look for Dennis and Barry to be on it. My hunch is there might be a ruddy complexion on their faces after the match.


  1. Probably knew my dad Professor Rimberg at Pembroke…at 86 he’s still going strong and traveling internationally. Nice to hear of other Lumbertonians doing well these days! Cheers

    1. I did know your dad. Does he still live in the US? At one time I heard he was in Estonia.

      1. Yes he is currently in Estonia but comes to the U.S. each year. Always an adventure, his stories and the man himself!

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