Union Democrat staff

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John Matthew O'Brien

July 31, 1923 - March 18, 2014

Sgt. John Matthew O'Brien was born on July 31, 1923. He passed away March 18, 2014, at the age of 90.

He is survived by three of his five siblings, Margaret Farmer, Tom O'Brien and Joe O'Brien; two step-daughters, Ronna Gillespie and Sandy Anger; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

John served two tours in World War II at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima with the Black Sheep Squadron. He was a mechanical engineer and vacationed in the Gold Hills to rock hound and pan for gold.

Later, he bought and ran the Chinese Camp General Store with his wife, Dottie, in 1972. They dedicated themselves to serving the community of Chinese Camp and surrounding areas for 15 years.

John provided much-needed services for locals and travelers at the store with gas, groceries, public restrooms, and a bar for locals as well as tourists from all over, being one of the last stops before Yosemite. Even more, it was a clearinghouse for information, conversation and the social hub for both locals and tourists, from travel updates, local and surrounding events, and fire outbreaks.

John started the first volunteer fire department in Chinese Camp, buying an old fire engine and restoring it, and installed a siren on the top of the General Store.

He and Dottie were leaders in the community, bringing the community together for all kinds of events such as parades and an annual Christmas party for kids from all over. As the General Store was the hub of the community and surrounding areas, John and Dottie were the heart and soul.

John helped save a lot of people's homes and stopped forest fires in Tuolumne County in those 15 years, before selling the store and participating in the community in other ways.

His memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church in Sonora, Calif., with honors by both the Fire Department and U.S. Military with a flyover of World War II planes at Chinese Camp Cemetery. All who wish to honor him are welcome. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Salvation Army in Sonora.

Death notices

Death Notices in The Union Democrat are published free of charge. They include the name, age and town of residence of the deceased, the date of death; service information; and memorial contribution information. The deadline is noon the day before publication.

DUARTE - Wilma (Orrante) Duarte, 84, of Valley Springs, died April 8 at Mark Twain Convalescent Hospital in San Andreas. No services are planned. San Andreas Memorial Chapel is handling arrangements.

ROBERTS - Sarah "Lorraine" Roberts, 88, of Sonora, died Monday at Avalon Care Center. Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home is handling arrangements.