Cover photo for Ian Thomas O'Brien's Obituary
Ian Thomas O'Brien Profile Photo
Ian Thomas O'Brien

Ian Thomas O'Brien

Ian Thomas O’Brien, June 24, 2023

Ian Thomas O’Brien, 28, went missing on June 24, 2023 while running to the summit of Hesperus Mountain in southwest Colorado. Friends, family, strangers, and members of the local Montezuma and La Plata Search and Rescue teams actively searched for Ian for fifteen days. After 70 days, he was found by local fishermen on September 2, 2023. Montezuma Search and Rescue (SAR) and local authorities assisted in recovery efforts.

We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support and love that went into the search for Ian. Hikers, bikers, horses, dogs, drones, ATV’s, planes, and helicopters covered a 12,000 acre search area, combing through dense brush, loose scree, freezing cold rivers, and extremely challenging backcountry terrain. Volunteers from every chapter of Ian’s life came to help; family, friends, classmates from Prescott College and Roxbury Central School, colleagues from Open Sky Wilderness Therapy, Camp Manito-wish, Deer Hill, and Frost Valley YMCA. All of Ian’s favorite people came to search for him in his favorite place, The La Plata Mountains.

Ian grew up loving skiing, hiking, camping, and fishing in the Catskill Mountains. His passion for the outdoors grew when he moved to Arizona to attend Prescott College, where he spent his time rock climbing, bikepacking, backpacking, and rafting. Ian developed a deep love for the desert and called the southwest four corners area home. Ian was an extremely talented artist, never without his watercolors and a sketch pad. He documented his travels through his art, and loved to share his work with everyone he met.

Ian is survived by his parents, Thomas and Laura O’Brien, his sisters, Kelsey (Victor) Rodriguez, and Molly O’Brien, nephew Miles, partner Beth Henshaw, grandmothers Ruth Finlen O’Brien and Joan Christian Ramsey, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.

We are so very proud of the full and vibrant life that Ian led and all that he overcame. Ian was resilient, humble, and determined to live a life of outdoor adventure, despite overcoming testicular cancer in 2019, and the daily challenges of living with epilepsy. He lived fully right to the end, out for a run in the mountains he loved so deeply.

We invite you to join us in celebrating Ian’s life by continuing to enjoy the outdoors as he did, and by taking your rubber chicken, which for many of us has become a constant companion this summer, on as many Ian sized adventures as possible.

Final arrangements have been entrusted to the Ertel Funeral Home, Cortez, CO. We are deeply grateful for the GoFundMe donations, and many more intangible donations and services that kept the search and searchers going safely. For those interested, donations in Ian’s name may be made to the Montezuma County Search and Rescue, PO Box 81, Cortez CO 82321. Plans for a memorial are forthcoming.


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