Jr. O'Connell

Obituary of Jr. O'Connell

James J. O'Connell, Jr., 89, a World War II veteran, prominent civic leader and Newport native, died Thursday, March 5, 2009, at Newport Hospital. He was the husband of Anne Hayes O'Connell, to whom he was married 64 years. Mr. O'Connell retired as the deputy dean of administration at the U.S. Naval War College in 1980, and was awarded the Superior Civilian Service Medal of the Department of the Navy. During World War II he served on the aircraft carrier Antietam in the Pacific theater. Upon returning to Newport after the war, he began a 35-year career with the federal government, working at the Central Torpedo Office, the Naval Underwater Weapons System Engineering Center, and finally the U.S. Naval War College. He was an accomplished carpenter and electrician who devoted much of his spare time to helping others with a variety of projects throughout the city. Mr. O'Connell served on the Board of Directors of the People's Credit Union from 1960 through 2000, serving as President in 1997. An avid swimmer, he devoted much of his time to Hazard's Beach, serving for decades on the Board of Directors, including terms as Treasurer and President. He loved to skate, and was an excellent hockey player on several amateur hockey teams. In the 1960s, he served on the Board of Directors of the renowned ESCIT (Eastern States Catholic Invitational Tournament), where he hosted the teams of John Thompson, Vinnie Ernst and Monk Malloy among other high school stars. Mr. O'Connell was a lifelong communicant of St. Joseph's Church, where he was active in the CYO, on the Parish Council, and was President of the church's Senior Citizens. Born in Newport on December 1, 1919, he was the son of James J. O'Connell and Agnes (Corcoran) O'Connell. Mr. O'Connell was a 1937 graduate of Rogers High School and furthered his education at RISD and the University of Rhode Island. He loved to learn and was an early adapter to quality control measures. Mr. O'Connell was a perfectionist in every aspect of his life and loved solving complicated tasks. In addition to his wife, he leaves six children: Kathleen Callahan and James J. O'Connell III, both of Boston, Mary McKenna of Scituate, William C. O'Connell and Patrick Hayes O'Connell of Newport, and Michaela Cannon of Heidelberg, Germany. He leaves a sister, Elizabeth Mitchell, of Middletown. He was a devoted grandfather to Emma Callahan, Christine O'Connell, Jack Cannon, Michael O'Connell, David O'Connell, Harry Cannon, Hailey O'Connell, Ellie Cannon, and Aidan O'Connell. He was the brother of the late Zita Hattub and William C. O'Connell. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Monday, March 9, 2009 at 10am, in St. Joseph's Church, corner of Broadway and Mann Ave, Newport. Burial at St. Columba Cemetery, Brown's Ln, Middletown. Visiting hours will be held on Sunday, March 8, from 3-6pm in the O'Neill-Hayes Funeral Home, 465 Spring St, Newport, RI. Donations in Mr. O'Connell's memory may be made to the Boston Health Care for the Homeless, 780 Albany Street, Boston, MA, 02118.
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