By Megan Decker
VASSAR — Friends and community members will gather and share memories over the next two days at the Vassar Theatre to pay tribute to its owner Tim O’Brien.
O’Brien died suddenly on Wednesday, March 19 at his residence. He was 52.
According to the Vassar Theatre’s history, O’Brien, originally of Dearborn, purchased the building in 1990 with the vision of restoring the theater to its “former glory.” He closed the theater in August 1992 to begin the restoration which would last 13 years. The entire project was executed almost single handedly by O’Brien who also owned the historic State Theatre in Bay City and Green Acres Cinema in Saginaw at the time.
“The Vassar Theatre reopened in November 2005 to the delight of Vassar and surrounding communities and had once again regained its title as ‘Theatre Beautiful,’” reads its history.
“Tim was a giant in the movie theater business and the city of Vassar will truly miss him and what he has brought to our community,” said Vassar Mayor Roger Bacon.
Most recently, O’Brien asked the community for support in upgrading to a digital style system. The community pledged just over $72,000 last year in a Kickstarter campaign to help with the project.
“The movie heroes of the silver screen are the stuff of comic book fantasy, donning silly costumes to fight evil and save the world from imminent destruction,” O’Brien wrote in a Facebook post thanking supporters in June. “You are the real heroes, the everyday folks who make the community — and the world — a better place to live and have today fought for something you believe in and saved a community icon from extinction. Thank you for making me so proud to call this place home.”
Today, the fate of the Vassar Theatre is unknown and will remain closed until further notice.
Dozens of community members, friends and fellow business owners wrote on Hanlin Funeral Home’s website expressing their sympathy.
“What a loss for the Vassar community. Tim was a true visionary and showed a dedication to his profession that should be admired by all. His loss will forever impact our community. Him memory should live forever in the Theatre,” wrote Vassar business owner Adam Barden.
“What a great and wise man Tim was. He had a vision for Vassar and he made it come true with the refurbishing of the Vassar Theatre. It was his dream and I hope his dream will somehow continue in Vassar. Our prayers go out to Tim’s family and to his Jean, also. May he rest in peace,” wrote Jim and Bonnie Heidenberger.
O’Brien is survived by his girlfriend, Jean Esckelson; an adopted sister, Patricia Uebbing; several close friends; and countless loyal customers.
Visitation is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sunday; and noon to 2 p.m. on Monday at the Vassar Theatre. The service will be held beginning at 2 p.m. Monday, March 24 at the Vassar Theatre.
Donations may be made to the family, or to the Bullard Sanford Memorial Library. A full obituary is available on A7 of today’s Tuscola County Advertiser.
Arrangements are being handled by Hanlin Funeral Home of Millington. Visit, www.hanlinfuneralhome.com.