Beloved Union City educator taught students to believe in themselves

Jack O’Connor is being remembered with intense love and affection by hundreds of former students whose lives he touched. “He was a true man’s man,” former student John ODonnell Rosales said of one of Union City’s most popular educators.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Jack O’Connor

Services at Leber Funeral Home (Kennedy Blvd and 21st Street) are from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, followed by an 11 a.m. funeral Mass on Friday.

An English and Journalism teacher, O’Connor gave tirelessly, staging school plays and advising editors of Union Hill High’s newspaper and television station.

“I am the writer that I am because of him and I sent him copies of my first book when it was published,” said ODonnell Rosales, a 1986 Union Hill graduate and war veteran who is the Chaplain of The St. Lazarus, Old Catholic / InterFaith Mission and co-host of the “Conversa Cuba Companioni” Radio Show in Mobile, Alabama.

“A good man died, who touched so many… lives, for so many years,” ODonnell Rosales wrote. “I shall miss my mentor and friend.


VIDEO: A candlelight service took a poignant turn when students — in sweet harmony — sang a rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” in memory of beloved Union City High School teacher Jack O’Connor. CLICK HERE

“I was hellion child, and this man said, ‘You’re smarter than this’,” ODonnell Rosales told CLIFFVIEW PILOT early Monday evening. “He took me from the mean streets and made me the man I am today, and I’m truly saddened by this.”

He said he is about to publish again and will dedicate his work to his former mentor.

A Facebook tribute page is equally overflowing with love, as well as memories of such school productions as “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “The Wiz” (the first play produced at the new Union City High School):

Flor Giron
: “You taught us about patience, inspired us to look beyond our surroundings and most importantly to believe in ourselves.”

Mimi Vega:
“Mr. O’ Connor, if I knew May 9th was the last time I was going to see you I would have held on tighter and longer.”

Hugo Asencio: “good luck, follow your heart and follow your passion”, that always stayed with me.

Lisbelkis Dorothea Santana
: “He made my junior year great and this year we were really a family, the whole cast.”

Anyelis Cordero: “He was definitely one of the most influential teachers in my life.”

Kathy Morales: “The lights have gone out, but the stage will forever be yours. Thanks for gracing our stage. A director and teacher like you comes around only once. Saying that you will be missed is an understatement.”

There’s also a lovely piece written by Fernando Contreras :  To Sir With Love… RIP Jack O’Connor

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