Thomas Patrick “Tom” O’Connell passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2021, surrounded by his wife and daughters. He will be terribly missed, but his life is lovingly celebrated.
He was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 23, 1949, to Donald Aloysius and Edith Brons O’Connell. The tight knit family moved to the Rio Grande Valley following Tom’s grandparents who owned Richard’s Restaurant in Harlingen. Tom and his five brothers and sisters lived in San Benito through his 8th grade year. In 9th grade, Tom followed a strong calling and attended the Corpus Christi Minor Seminary for two years with the intent to join the priesthood. However, in his wife’s opinion, Tom found that girls and football seemed more fun. He joined his family in McAllen during his junior year of high school as a proud McAllen High School Bulldog where he graduated with the Class of 1967. Tom attended Pan American University where he met the love of his life, Frances Downs O’Connell, whom he married in 1972. The newlyweds moved to Harlingen in 1973 and started their family with the birth of two daughters.
Tom was full of life and never met a stranger. Good times and good people were never far from him. Community and loyalty were cornerstones of Tom’s life and evidenced by the commitment he made to his family, his friends, his employers, and his Valley. He treasured the fellowship shared with his best friends at the hunting lease and fishing at the Arroyo. He had an enthusiasm to serve with civic-minded friends supporting the community, volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America, and fundraising (Tom loved a chili cookoff!) He held deep and strong relationships all over the Valley during his 30 years as the Special Events Manager for Valley Beverage, Inc. working for the Runnels and Clark families. Tom had the opportunity to work with organizations such as Charro Days, Sombrero Fest, and RioFest. In 2010, he kept the same title but changed his demographic and joined Fun N Sun RV Park where he retired in 2015.
Tom had the honor and privilege to be involved in several Valley-wide civic organizations. He served as Past President for the Harlingen Kiwanis Club, the Valley Ad Federation, the Texas International Fishing Tournament, and the Valley Sportsman. He served on the Board of Directors for the Gladys Porter Zoo, the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, and even as the “token male” for the Ladies Kingfish Tournament. Tom’s contributions were recognized by many organizations, but one of his proudest was the 2001 honor of being named as South Padre Island’s Volunteer of the Year. He loved the Island all year, not just the three weeks he became a resident during Spring Break - which is one long special event!
Left to treasure Tom’s memory is his wife of 49 years, Frances; their daughters, Chris (Jeremy) Laak of New Braunfels, TX, and Jennifer (Dirk) Webb of Universal City, TX; and his grandson, Blake Patrick Webb, whom he loved to the moon and back. He is also survived by his brother, Mike (Kay) O’Connell of Helotes, TX; his sisters, Lynn Herrin of Wimberley, TX, Sharon (Mickey) Uhlaender of Wimberley, TX, and Kathy O’Connell of Canyon Lake, TX; and several nieces and nephews.
Tom was preceded in death by his parents, Don and Edith O’Connell; brother, Danny O’Connell; brother-in-law, Keith Herrin; and his grandparents Richard and Meda (Peeny) Brons.
A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, March 27, at 2:00 PM at the First United Methodist Church at 321 East Harrison, Harlingen, Texas 78550. A live stream of the Celebration of Life service will be available at www.livestream.com/fumcharlingen. All guests should wear a facial covering.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the following organizations: the TIFT Endowment Fund (PO Box 2715, South Padre Island, TX 78597), the Valley Zoological Endowment (500 Ringgold, Brownsville, TX 78520), or the First United Methodist Church of Harlingen (321 East Harrison, Harlingen, TX 78550).
Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Buck Ashcraft San Benito Funeral Home, 1400 W. Business 77, San Benito, Texas 78586. 956.291.4180 www.sanbenitofuneralhome.com
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