James Joseph O'Connor, Jr. passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 2, 2022 in New Providence, New Jersey.
Jim was born on September 4, 1930 in New York City to James and Viola (LaMothe) O'Connor. A classic self-made man, Jim started his working life as a child, delivering the Bronx Home News in his neighborhood of Clason Point. While attending various Catholic schools in the Bronx, in addition to being an altar boy, Jim helped support his family by working as a delivery boy, maintenance worker, life guard, soda jerk, office clerk, copy checker, and messenger for a Wall St. cotton broker. These early experiences instilled in Jim a lifelong love of hard work, diligence, and thrift, which he modeled to all who knew him.
After graduating from Cardinal Hayes High School in 1948, where he played football and basketball and ran track, he attended the United States Coast Guard Academy. Jim graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1952, with a degree in Engineering. His 1951 Coast Guard football team was undefeated, an achievement that was recognized in 2021 by the team's induction into the Coast Guard Academy's Sports Hall of Fame. From 1952 to 1955, Jim served in the Coast Guard, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. Jim often spoke fondly of his time in the Coast Guard, especially his voyages around the world on the Coast Guard's flagship barque, the Eagle.
Following his service in the Coast Guard, Jim began working for Combustion Engineering, Inc. in New York City, while attending Fordham Law School at night. In 1959 he was admitted to the New York Bar and joined Combustion Engineering's law department, eventually becoming the General Counsel of The Lummus Company, a subsidiary of Combustion Engineering. He retired in 1994 after working at the company for almost 40 years.
In 1955 Jim married Jane Isabelle Wagner. After living in the Bronx for a short time, the O'Connors moved to Malverne, New York. In 1968, Jim and his family, which now included three children, moved to Westfield, New Jersey. A devout Catholic, over the years he was a member of Holy Trinity, Our Lady of Lourdes, and, finally, St. Helen's. While living in Westfield, Jim was involved in many charitable activities, including the United Way, where he led many giving campaigns, and the hospice program at St. Helen's. An active member of the Westfield Tennis Club and the Echo Lake Country Club, he was an avid and competitive athlete, playing golf, tennis, and paddle tennis well into his 80's. In 2006 Jim and Jane moved to Naples, Florida where they were members of St. William's parish. During their time in Naples, their volunteer activities included teaching English to immigrant children.
Jim is survived by his three children and their spouses: Deborah (Robert) Bennett of Parker, Colorado, David (Kathryn) O'Connor of Wilmington, Delaware, and Daniel (Kathleen) O'Connor of Pennington, New Jersey. He is also survived by his grandchildren Madeline, Muriel, John, James, and William, his sister Eileen (Robert) Engel, his nieces Stephanie (John Murchek) Smith, Jennifer (Robert) Sidie, and Joanne (Bruce) Morgan, and his nephews Anthony Smith, Mitch (Kelly) Engel, and James (Doreen) Engel. He was predeceased by his beloved Jane, after 65 years of marriage, in October 2021, his parents, James and Viola, and his granddaughter Isabel O'Connor.
Jim's family would like to extend their deep appreciation to the staff at Lantern Hill in New Providence, New Jersey, and to Tasha Ablorah, his caretaker, both of whom provided compassionate care to him.
Jim's funeral Mass and burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Cardinal Hayes High School (https://cardinalhayes.myschoolapp.com/page/ways-to-give/give-online?siteId=1413&ssl=1). Arrangements by Gray Funeral Home, Westfield. Please go to: www.grayfuneralhomes.com.