Rest In Peace, Dr. Joe
God must have needed a top-notch forensic pathologist on the Heavenly medical team, so He summoned Dr. Joseph O'Connell home.
If you didn't have the pleasure of meeting Joe and having a heart-to-heart conversation with him, you have my sympathy. When I say you missed the chance to share time with a brilliant conversationalist, and - more important - to make a treasured friend, I commit no hyperbole.
If you spoke with Joe, you'd never forget the experience. I first met Joe at a political event for former Delegate Louise Snodgrass. I was introduced to him by one of his children, The Honorable Theresa Adams, Judge of the Circuit Court for Frederick County. This was long before Terry's ascension to the bench, back when she was a great prosecutor.
Terry introduced me to her Dad Joe and her Mom Rita. I developed an instant kinship with Dr. Joe, one of those cosmic things that defy explanation. Joe had that magical skill of making you feel that while you were conversing with him, the rest of the world melted away.
After he told me he ran a pathology lab, I asked him where his hospital was. He smiled and said I probably wouldn't know where it was, but told me he was running the pathology lab at the Cape May Courthouse Hospital in New Jersey.
Joe had no way of knowing that I spent all of my youthful summers at the Jersey shore, specifically in Borough of Stone Harbor, a five mile drive from the Cape May Courthouse Hospital. Every trip to the grocery store took us past the place where Joe was now working.
So we had an hour-long discussion of places and events unique to the southern Jersey shore. In addition to a trip down memory lane, Joe and I talked politics, city management, and what emerged as his favorite subject, his beloved family.
Dr. O'Connell was an accomplished man of letters, with as impressive a curriculum vitae as any man alive. Far from a braggart, Dr. O'Connell was a humble man whose proudest accomplishment was his children, who he and his loving wife Rita had raised to be very successful in their own right.
I found him fascinating, as interesting talking about his medical work as he was sharing his views on politics and life in general. Joe knew as much about sadness as he did joy, and I don't think he ever fully recovered from the loss of his beloved son Patrick. The silver lining in this terrible sadness is that father and son are reunited, and they surely have a lot of catching-up to do.
I think it might be heretical to talk about a sitting judge like a real person, but in this case, I'll seek forgiveness. Terry and Mike Adams are special friends, a small of group of us try to get together regularly to brag about our kids, speculate about life in the public eye, and revel in the power of our shared experience.
I probably would have known all I needed to know about how wonderful Joe and Rita O'Connell were by spending time with their daughter. She exhibits the best characteristics of both. The warmth, passion, quick wit, and intellectual curiosity found in her parents are all evident in Judge Theresa Adams
It didn't stop there, though. I got to know their daughter Meg through my work at the Frederick SportsPlex, where Meg handled some of our advertising work. Meg was also involved in Terry's political career, helping Terry in her run for Frederick County State's Attorney and in her successful defense of her appointed judicial position. Meg is much like Terry, again reflecting her parents love, compassion, and zeal for life.
Another trusted friend, Jeff Holtzinger, had a strong connection with the O'Connell family. Jeff was a well-known athlete, and he developed a strong friendship with Pat O'Connell. Pat's sudden passing shook Jeff deeply, so much so that he and I discussed how much Pat meant to him in the aftermath of the tragedy. Jeff is a great mayor, an incredible engineer, and through our conversations about Pat's untimely and tragic passing, a caring friend with a void left by the loss of his pal.
I only mention the O'Connell's that I know, or know of, in a direct manner. What I know from talking to Joe is that all of his children are special, and all of them and their families were the fuel that fired Dr. Joe O'Connell's perpetual motion machine.
My thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. O'Connell, my dear friend Judge Adams, the whole O'Connell extended clan, and with everyone who was fortunate enough to share a conversation with this warm, thoughtful, and special human being.
I will always be thankful that our paths crossed, and that my journey through life was made more interesting and enjoyable by Dr. Joseph O'Connell. I hope he'll save me a chair. I'll be looking forward to talking to him again!
Rest In Peace!