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Joseph O’Connor

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Joseph E. O’Connor, age 86, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at Friends Community Care Center.

Joe was born Dec. 23, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the late Edward and Althaire (Spaulding) O’Connor. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife of 31 years, Judith O’Connor, along with his siblings Kathleen Roderique, Margaret Foster, Benjamin O’Connor, Paul O’Connor, William O’Connor, and Sister Maria O’Connor.

Joe leaves behind his two children, Edward O’Connor and Megan O’Connor, as well as two step-children, Mathew (Miyuki) Calvert and Sarah (Charles “Chip” Serns) Morehouse; brother Father Edward O’Connor; sister Eileen Karl; step-grandchildren, Isaki, Mina, Hiroki, Emma and Avery; and numerous nieces and nephews, along with many friends and colleagues.

Joe grew up the youngest of nine children in Pittsburgh. He played basketball in high school and developed an early love for jazz, often telling the story of how he rode the trolley downtown to hear Count Basie play. After high school, Joe followed in the footsteps of his father and elder brothers by attending Notre Dame University, where he received his bachelor’s degree and spent his free time singing in the glee club. After two long years working as an accountant in Gary, Indiana, he decided the academic life was for him, and went on to get his Ph.D. in Russian history from the University of Virginia. He then found a job conducting interviews for the Kennedy Library, and although he loved it, especially meeting his political idol Robert Kennedy, he decided his true calling was as a teacher. Soon after, he was hired by Wittenberg University, and stayed there for the rest of his career, teaching Russian and Eastern European history. He was known as a challenging and enthusiastic teacher who was generous with his office hours, if not his grades, and always made time for students, remaining close to a number of them far past their graduation day. One former student flew from California to say goodbye to him the day he died. He adored teaching at Wittenberg, making close friendships with colleagues, and until his final year would often say, laughing, how incredibly lucky he was to have ended up there. This enthusiasm was a defining characteristic of his: he took real delight in his favorite people, his favorite places — Yellow Springs, Lost Valley, Michigan, Croatia — art and music, ice cream and cross-country skiing. He had a curious and open-minded approach to the world around him and was almost never without a book. He was an exceptional whistler, laughed easily, and enjoyed some good-natured teasing with his friends. He remained a devout Catholic his entire life and was a member of St. Paul Catholic Church. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

A funeral Mass will be held at St. Paul in Yellow Springs at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, 2024, with a reception following, from 1–3 p.m., at Vernet Ecological Center at Glen Helen, Yellow Springs. All are invited to attend either or both. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Glen Helen Association or Partners in Health in Joseph’s honor. Condolences may be expressed to the family by visiting


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