Designed original 911 emergency call system


NEWTON, N.H — Daniel K. O’Brien, of Newton, N.H and Naples, Fla., and formerly of North Reading, passed away peacefully amongst family on May 8, 2022.

Daniel (Dan) was a loving husband for 56 years to his recently deceased wife, Kathleen, with whom he lived in North Reading for 38 years and raised their three children, Kristine, Julie and Dan.

Born in 1942, Dan attended Saint Francis de Sales Parochial School in Charlestown and graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1960. He went on to earn a degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology from Wentworth Institute of Technology in 1962.

A dedicated life-long learner, Dan earned four additional degrees from Northeastern University: Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Master of Business Administration, and Master of Electrical Engineering. In 2005, he earned his Doctorate of Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He also served our country as an active-duty member of the Army National Guard.

While working at the telephone company as a young engineer, Dan was tasked with designing an emergency call response system. His design entitled “EMERGENCY SERVICE 911 ARRANGED FOR #1XBAR AND PANEL C.O.” is known today as “911.” The design was widely deployed, and although it has been updated over the years with changing technologies, Dan’s original design helped countless people in need of emergency help. He moved on to engineering management positions within the telephone company (New England Telephone, NYNEX, AT&T) and retired after 30 years. Dan found another passion in his second career, teaching electrical engineering and mathematics at Merrimack College in North Andover for well over a decade.

He was happiest in life when surrounded by his adoring family. He enjoyed golfing, playing his guitars, reading engineering textbooks, and watching the ocean sunsets with his beloved wife, Kathy.

Dan will be dearly missed by his children: Kristine (O’Brien) Davis and her husband, Joe Davis, of North Reading; Julie (O’Brien) Fennell and her husband, David Fennell, of Auckland, New Zealand; and Daniel O’Brien and his wife, Alicia (Moore) O’Brien, of Dedham. He will always be remembered as a loving Grampy to his six grandchildren: Patrick and Erin Davis; Shaun Fennell; and Raelyn, Maeve, and Mila O’Brien.

Dan is also survived by his sisters, Beverly Rogers of Gloucester and Marion Connolly of Duxbury, and his brother, Edward O’Brien of Naples, Fla.

He was predeceased by his parents, James and Mary O’Brien, his brother, James O’Brien, and his sister, Patricia (O’Brien) Whitlock, all formerly of Charlestown.

Visiting hours will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 15 at the Croswell Funeral Home, 19 Bow Street in North Reading. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at Saint Theresa’s Church, 63 Winter Street, North Reading on Monday, May 16 at 10:30 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kathleen O’Brien Artist Scholarship; or in memory of Daniel K. O’Brien to: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-9959. (

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