John Donald "Jack" O'Connell, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, the 2nd of January 2013. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on the 14th of November 1930, the first child to proud parents Daniel and Marie (Flannery) O'Connell. He was fortunate to be born into a blessed and loving Irish Catholic family. The family moved from Chicago's west side, where Jack had many close relatives, to Des Plaines, Illinois while Jack was still in the First Grade.|
Jack was a happy, industrious and hard working young entrepreneur even at an early age. He had multiple jobs during his grade school years. In addition to the typical snow shoveling and paper route work of the era, Jack sold sweet corn and potatoes, that he personally picked at a nearby farm, door-to-door, ran a circus, and at age 16, became a bartender in the Stable Kitchen at Arlington Park Race Track.
In the days of Jack's youth it was not uncommon for the first born son in an Irish Catholic family to study for the priesthood. Jack's study for the priesthood began with high school at the Holy Ghost Mission Seminary in East Troy, Wisconsin on Labor Day, 1944 at age 13. In 1946, Jack's 39-year old father died, suffering a cerebral hemorrhage after their last visit in East Troy. After eight years in the seminary, Jack decided to serve God in a different endeavor and returned to Chicago. His seminary years left Jack well-educated, confident and especially self-disciplined. Though he already had enough college credits to obtain a degree, not all credits from the seminary would be accepted at many colleges. As such, Jack entered Loyola University - Chicago, graduating cum laude in 1954. While Jack was attending Loyola he met the late Carolann E. "Carol" Weber. Jack and Carol fell in love and married on the 29th of May 1954.
During college Jack worked for Cartran Travel and Gray Line Sightseeing Company, primarily hosting cross-country train travel tours and tours of the Northeast. This work introduced Jack to the convention and trade show business and led to a job at the Chicago Convention Bureau. Jack went on to become a superstar in the convention/exposition industry. He left the Chicago Convention Bureau to ultimately run McCormick Place in Chicago, which at the time was the foremost convention facility in the world. Jack was recruited by Judge Roy M. Hofheinz, builder of Houston's Astrodome, to move to Houston, Texas in late 1964 and become Vice-President of the Houston Sports Association. Jack brought the leading trade show to the Astrodomain and promoted many spectacular events, including prize fights, bullfights, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, the most exciting college basketball game ever, U of H vs UCLA and even convincing the Houston Oilers to move indoors to the Dome. Jack took over the CEO duties of the Astrodomain Corporation after Judge Hofheinz suffered a debilitating stroke before becoming President of the late Joe L. Allbritton's holding company, Perpetual Corporation. Jack followed his work for Allbritton with an invitation from Clint Murchison, Jr. to become President/CEO of Clint's new holding company, TCMI, Inc. - "The Clint Murchison Interests." Jack ran many of Clint's businesses. One business they acquired as partners was United Exposition Service Company, which Jack built into the largest and first "Coast to Coast" convention general contracting company in the United States. Jack eventually sold this company to The Dial Corporation and today it is owned by GES Exposition Services Co. where Jack served as Chairman of the Executive Advisory Board for 14 years. After Murchison's health and financial condition worsened, Jack, having been given Clint's perpetual power of attorney, wound up many of Clint's affairs, including the sale of the Dallas Cowboys Football Team for a then record high price paid for any sports franchise ever to Bum Bright. Clint was a special fellow who died to early.
Jack served on many Boards of Director over time. He was particularly fond of his 20 + years of service as a Board Member of the Quanex Corporation (NYSE- NX). Jack also advised The Methodist Hospital and great friend, Ted Bowen. Jack served on the Board of the University of St. Thomas and the Board of the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau "GHCVB." He was also presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the GHVCB at the completion of his tenure as Chairman. Jack was also inducted to the Convention Liaison Council "CLC" Hall of Leaders. At the time, the CLC Hall of Leaders included 63 members, including Conrad N. Hilton and J. Willard Marriott, Sr. and Jr. Jack was a longtime member of St. Michael's Parish and a member of the River Oaks Country Club.
While Jack had a fabulous business career and enjoyed monumental success, there were always two things more important to Jack than his business. That was, God and family in that order. Jack was blessed with a lovely family and three children who survive him. Jack's main mission in life was always to lead a life that got him into Heaven. Jack certainly accomplished this mission, frankly, with ease. Jack was a great person who treated everyone with respect and treated everyone the same, whether shoe-shine boy, business magnate or diplomat. They don't make many like Jack O'Connell, he will be missed. Once, the late publisher of the Houston Chronicle, Richard J.V. Johnson stated, "I'd play poker with Jack O'Connell over the phone." That's the kind of guy he was.
Jack married Denise Michaels in 1987 and spent the last 25 years of his life with Denise. She provided Jack with loving and constant care during as his health declined in recent years. In addition to Denise, Jack is survived by children, Patrick and wife Denise, Cathy Broussard, and Michael; brothers, Bill, Dan and wife Margie, Bob and wife Laura; treasured grandchildren, Ashley, Kelley and John "Jack II" O'Connell; and John and Robert Broussard; as well as many Flannery, Bidwill, and Regan cousins in the Chicago area. Dad had a great nine innings and he will always be loved and never forgotten. He died peacefully, shortly after a visit with his loving family. May God Bless him always!
A Mass of Christian Burial is to be offered at ten o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the 5th of January, at St. Michael's Catholic Church, 1801 Sage Road in Houston, where the Rev. Mgsr. Frank H. Rossi, S.T.L., Pastor, and the Rev. Sean P. Horrigan, Pastor of Christ the Redeemer Church in Houston, are to serve as the celebrants.
The Rite of Committal is to follow, via an escorted cortege, at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery in Houston.
Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception at a venue to be announced at the service.
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family kindly suggests that memorial contributions be directed to St. Michael's Catholic Church, 1801 Sage Rd., Houston, TX, 77056; Carmelite Monestery, 949 N. River Rd., Des Plaines, IL, 60016; or to Loyola University, Gift Management, 820 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, 60611.
Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 3 to Jan. 4, 2013