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Philip M. O'ConnellSeptember 3, 1932 ~ November 24, 2017 (age 85)
Philip M. O’Connell, 85, died peacefully in his sleep on Friday morning, November 24, 2017. With unfailing support from his devoted wife, he was able to remain at home during his last years and passed away with his loving family around him.
He leaves his love of 62 years, Patricia O’Connell, his daughter Cathleen (Steven) Mulder, his son Kevin (Midori) O’Connell, his daughter Karin O’Connell (Victor Ottati) and his daughter, Shannon O’Connell, as well as his ten grandchildren, Bryan (Katrina), Katie (Matt), Samantha, Sean, Evelyn, Patrick, Ryan, Theo, Philip and Clara, and his great granddaughter Charlotte. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Betty O’Connell, his brother-in-law, David (Donna) Swigers, many loving nieces, nephews, friends and special supporters (you know who you are).
Philip was born and raised in Ionia, Michigan, the youngest son of Margaret Schmoltz and Stephen Bruce O’Connell. He lost his brother Dan in World War II. His other brothers, Robert and Louis (also veterans) passed away untimely as well. Nonetheless, they continued to be constant influences in his life.
He moved to Grand Rapids to attend Aquinas College, where he met his soul mate, Patricia Swigers (who was introduced to him as a perfect duet partner for a Mozart piano sonata). The two were inseparable after that, and married in 1955. Philip graduated Aquinas with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and went on to obtain his master’s degree in education from Michigan State University. He began his career as a junior high school teacher and, although teaching was his passion, he soon moved into administrative roles, including as vice-principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent of Kenowa Hills School District, from which he retired in 1989. Philip received too many honors in his profession to list, but those he was most proud of included recognition as president of the Child Guidance Clinic and for his involvement in the Region I North Kent Superintendent Advisory Council for Special Education, for which he received the General Educator of the Year award in 1989. Because being in the classroom was his passion, he returned to teaching after retirement as an associate professor at the School of Education at Grand Valley State University.
Philip was not just an educator extraordinaire, though. He was an excellent tennis player, and regularly competed with players much younger than he. He had a sense of humor that would pop up at anytime, catching you off guard. He loved piano, playing and listening to music daily. He had so many interests – travelling with his wife, art, cooking, photography, carpentry, psychology, philosophy, languages, physics and astronomy. For Philip, life was about curiosity and learning. He passed this love of learning on to his children and to many, many of the young people he taught over the years.
Above all, Philip M. O’Connell was the most compassionate, thoughtful and truly kind human being one could ever hope to know. He began every conversation with,“how are YOU?”
A visitation for friends and relatives will be held at the Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Home, on Friday, December 1st, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. with tributes to Phil at 5:30 p.m.