Joseph Patrick O'Connor

Cullum: 25819

Class: 1965

Cadet Company: H1

Date of Birth: August 29, 1942

Date of Death: June 17, 1971

Died in Washington, DC

Interred: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY - View or Post a Eulogy

   Location: Sect XXXIV, Row D, Grave 177


Joseph O'ConnorON 17 JUNE 1971, just prior to commencing the graduate study that would culminate in the West Point assignment he had eagerly sought, Captain Joseph Patrick O'Connor III died of cancer in Walter Reed Army Hospital at the age of 28. In the brief span of their marriage, however, his wife Sue Ann had come to appreciate well Pat's devotion to his Alma Mater for she realized and shared fully with his friends and classmates the appropriate dignity and tribute the Military Honors provided his burial in the West Point Cemetery. All in attendance knew that there could not return to his Alma Mater a more devoted son who better exemplified her ideals and grandest traits.

Still, in a death so premature there seemingly must accompany the despairing thoughts of promise unfilled, the loss of a bountiful friendship and so much else so grand and rich that Pat brought to his life and to his loved ones. Perhaps, then, the best understanding and consolation for his widow, family, and friends are to be found in his own profound faith and devotion to his Church, for surely his courage during the last difficult days of his struggle was the manifestation of a triumphant acceptance that it was "the Lord's Will."

Joseph Patrick O'Connor III was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 29 August 1942, the eldest son of Colonel and Mrs. Joseph P. O'Connor Jr. He, his sister, and mother moved to Camp Blanding, Florida, to be with his father as his Artillery unit prepared for movement overseas, but due to the wartime conditions they soon returned to New Orleans where they remained for the duration of World War II.

Following the War and his father's return from overseas, the family was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Pat enjoyed romping outdoors and, especially, the playful company of his sister Cathleen, and younger brothers Robert and Michael. This was a memorable part of his childhood, for in later pursuing a career in the Field Artillery as his father before him had begun, Pat often remarked as to how he enjoyed Fort Sill and the fond memories it held for him.

As the son of a career soldier, while growing up he lived on a variety of military posts, both at home and abroad. In gaining the broad experiences of such an upbringing, Pat participated in scouting, baseball, and other rigorous outdoor activities all of which he pursued in the enthusiastic, energetic manner that seemed to typify his every endeavor. During his childhood one other trait was especially evident, and this was his desire to excel. This was true of Pat whether he was engaged in Little League Baseball or classroom studies. Pat's behavior, though, was always tempered by a consideration for others and a warm, personable nature. He is remembered by his father as "a good child . . . (who) very seldom needed disciplining. He made friends very easily and was liked by all who knew him."

Pat began high school at Immaculata High School while his family was stationed at Fort Leavenworth. He later attended Washington and Lee High School in Virginia and graduated from nearby McLean High School in 1960. At McLean High School Pat carved an outstanding record while excelling in the classroom and winning letters in baseball and basketball. It was at McLean High that he developed a close friendship with Lance Stewart which remained steadfast while they were classmates at West Point and during their service together in the Army.

Following his graduation from McLean High School, Pat entered George Washington University for a year's prep while pursuing his ambition to achieve West Point. He was appointed to the Military Academy the following spring and entered the Academy in July of 1961 with the Class of 1965. As a cadet Pat established himself as an outstanding member of his Class and displayed the abilities which reinforced his later promise as a young officer in the Army. His maturity and purpose as a Cadet were especially apparent as he admirably accepted and pursued the preparation of the professional soldier he desired to be. Pat, though, always enjoyed the companionship of his classmates and was one of the most popular members of his Class. A stalwart intramural participant, he continued his avid interest in sports at the Academy, and when his routine and studies permitted, he would eagerly seek a tennis or squash match. Perhaps his performance as a cadet is best exemplified in his cadet captaincy as a Firstclassman and election to the Honor Committee. Outstanding, indeed, in Cadet endeavor, but Pat is best remembered by his classmates as a genuine, warm person who completely gave of himself to a friendship. His friendly smile and personable nature were an expression of an inner self all admired and respected.

Upon graduation from the Academy in June 1965, Pat was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Artillery. The mutual pride shared by father and son was evident in the commissioning ceremony as Colonel O'Connor administered the oath to his son. Following Airborne and Ranger Training at Fort Benning, Pat reported to his first station at Fort Bragg with the 82d Airborne Division. Shortly afterwards he joined his Artillery unit in the Dominican Republic where he remained until the Division's redeployment.

In November 1967 he was transferred to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell and accompanied the Division on its deployment to the Republic of Vietnam. While with the 101st he served as an Artillery Liaison Officer, Assistant Division G3, and as the Assistant S3 of an Artillery Battalion.

Pat returned to the States in December 1968 and was assigned to Fort Sill to attend the Artillery Advanced Course. This was a pleasant tour for him as he renewed friendships with classmates and found time to pursue and develop his golf game. Anxious, though, to secure a battery command, he eagerly accepted an assignment once again with the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. After a brief stint as the S1 of an Artillery battalion he was given command of a Field Artillery battery. Executing his duties in an energetic, efficient manner, Pat was cited for his outstanding leadership and performance of duty at the completion of his tour. In further recognition of his competence and ability he was selected as the Junior Aide to the Commander in Chief of the Strike Command in November 1970.

At MacDill Air Force Base, Pat enjoyed the Florida climate and took advantage of it to pursue his tennis and golf. Shortly after arriving at MacDill, he renewed a former acquaintance with Sue Ann Van Dyke, the little "girl next door" he had known when his family was stationed at Fort Eustis. They came to increasingly enjoy one another's company and had many fond times together participating in golf, tennis, and other outdoor activities. Sadly, though, in July 1970 the terminal malignancy was discovered and cast a despairing pale on the future plans of Pat and Sue Ann who had decided to marry. However, in spite of the dreadful threat which faced them Pat and Sue were married on 28 November 1970. Enjoying but a brief time together at their home in Florida, Pat was soon forced to reenter Walter Reed for treatment. In spite of his courageous struggle and the extensive treatment he received, the medical care could only temporarily arrest the cancer which took his life on 17 June 1971.

Pat had shown exceptional promise in his brief military career. Besides the acclaim of those for whom and with whom he served, he was recognized by awards of the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Air Medal. The stature of his person, though, is what is remembered most by his friends, classmates, and loved ones. A classmate wrote in the 1965 HOWITZER: "Honest reflection on our part will show that Pat was the cadet we all wanted to be before entering and the cadet we will believe we were after we leave." This could be said of Pat-- the friend, soldier, husband, and son.

--A Classmate