Thomas O'Connell (1928 - 2013)

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Thomas B. O'Connell

Feb. 29, 1928 - Feb. 14, 2013

Black Mountain - Tom O'Connell, entomologist and diplomat, departed this life on February 14, 2013 at Highland Farms near his home in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Tom was born and grew up in Roslindale, Massachusetts.

Upon graduating from High School he entered the U.S. Army for three years, serving in the occupation forces in Japan, and attaining the rank of Sergeant. Following his discharge he entered the University of Massachusetts where he earned a B.S. in Entomology and English Literature in 1953, followed by an M.S. in Entomology from the University of Idaho in 1955.

After a two-year Fulbright grant to study entomology at the University of Erlangen in Germany, Tom was hired in 1958 by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to work in Iran on organic (rather than chemical) methods of controlling harmful insects and weeds. Tom then returned to the U.S. to continue his studies, earning a Ph.D. in Entomology and Biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley in 1966.

While in Iran, Tom met and married Ida Tabuchi, a native Californian working in Tehran with the U. S. Agency for International Development. After two years in Iran, Tom and Ida moved to Morocco where their children, Anne and David, were born. The family lived in Morocco for four years, followed by assignments in Mexico City, Brussels, Bucharest, and Sofia. Tom concluded his career in Washington, D.C. During the earlier years of his career abroad, Tom met and became close friends with Black Mountain residents, Gay and Joe Fox, and Harry Petrequin.

Tom retired to Black Mountain in 1991. He introduced the instruction of chess to primary, secondary and high schools, and spent countless hours tutoring and teaching chess to children, youth, and adults at area schools, libraries, and prisons. He was active in the Kiwanis Club of Black Mountain and was honored for his myriad volunteer community services as the Outanding Member of the Year in 2004. Tom also taught courses in entomology and evolution at the University of North Carolina-Asheville.

He was a beloved member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Swannanoa Valley where he chaired the Membership Committee.

In a recent article in the Black Mountain News, Tom described the attitude that made him a pleasure to be with: "I've enjoyed life," O'Connell said. "I've enjoyed the people I have worked with." That feeling was mutual as demonstrated in the course of his career by the numerous awards and accolades bestowed upon him by both his foreign counterparts and American co-workers. The high professional standards he set for himself were exemplary for all who knew and worked with him.

Tom is survived by his wife, Ida Tabuchi O'Connell of Black Mountain; his son and daughter-in-law, David and Danielle O'Connell of Fredericksburg, Virginia; and his daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters, Anne, Douglas, Katie, and Alicia Devereaux of Falls Church, Virginia.

A memorial service will be held on Monday, May 6, at 2 p.m. in the Chapel of the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery.
Harwood Home for Funerals assisted the family.


Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times from Apr. 30 to May 5, 2013
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