A Public Time of Sharing
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Life Story / Obituary
With a heart of gold and unwavering faith, Sean Francis O'Connor lived a life rich in family, friendship, and service. Generous beyond measure, Sean gave freely and loved wholly. He gave all he had to give...shirts, shoes, shelter...it didn’t matter. If he had it, he gave it. With an easy smile and infinite energy, Sean inspired love and laughter wherever he went. He was a man who knew no stranger, and who was a comfort to many. A faithful, loving son, brother, uncle, and friend, Sean’s inspiring legacy will long live in the hearts of those he loved.
In 1966, while the Vietnam conflict continued, and racial tensions at home grew, the Rolling Stones sang Under My Thumb, the Beatles longed for Yesterday, and the Supremes reminded us that You Can’t Hurry Love. It was a year that found us donning shiny vinyl-infused clothes and when miniskirts were the rage. Adam West’s Batman fought for justice, Star Trek explored new frontiers, and the race to put a man on the moon continued. As the nation set its eyes on a more hopeful future, nowhere was their more to celebrate than in Ontonogan, Michigan, as Richard O'Connor & Elizabeth O'Connor welcomed their son Sean into their hearts and home on November 22nd.
Though Sean was born a proud Yooper, his family soon moved to the lower peninsula. Sean grew up in Holland where his father worked in the Welfare Department for the State of Michigan and his mother worked in the billing department of Grand Valley Radiology. Growing up in the good company of his siblings, Kevin, Colleen, Brian, and Brendan, Sean enjoyed a childhood filled with activity. Active by nature, Sean was always on the move. He loved playing baseball, football, riding bikes, and exploring with his neighborhood friends. Energized by movement and being with others, Sean spent the bulk of his childhood outside. It seemed as if he only returned home to eat and sleep.
Sean not only excelled with people, he was a solid student and athlete. He attended St. Francis Elementary School where he worked hard to get good grades and his love for football and baseball continued to grow. He first excelled in Rocket football and recreation baseball. His skills grew during junior high & throughout his years at Holland High School. Good natured, understanding, and kind, he had a gazillion friends and his share of girlfriends during his school years.
After graduating from high school in 1985, Sean moved to Big Rapids where he attended Ferris State University. During his second semester at the university, he became a pledge of Pi Kappa Alpha. Soon he was an active and proud member of the PKE Fraternity where his dynamic personality and sense of humor inspired many good times with his “brothers.” Though Sean gave college a try twice and ultimately left Ferris State without a degree, he created a lifetime of treasured memories and made life-long friendships.
Returning to his hometown, Sean worked for many years at Life Savers in Holland. He worked there until they closed the facility in 2003. According to Sean, he was the first employee to have a cell phone (which is totally possible!). As he was the only one with a cell phone at the time, one of his co-workers curiously asked him, "who are you going to call?" With signature wit, Sean's response was simply and hilariously, "NOT YOU." After Life Savers closed, Sean worked at J.B. Laboratories for several years.
Sean’s love of sports afforded him continued good time throughout his entire life. He enjoyed golfing, playing adult softball, coaching Special Olympics, going to NASCAR races with his family while camping there for the entire weekend. He loved deer hunting every year. Legend has it that Sean nailed three deer with one shot. That was Sean's story and his family and friends let him tell it however he wanted. He also fished whenever he got the chance. In his younger years, Sean followed Reggie Jackson’s professional baseball career and Bill Bates’ football career with the Dallas Cowboys. He proudly wore jersey #40 during high school in tribute to Bill Bates. He forged an unwavering love for the University of Notre Dame that was unrivaled. Everyone who knew him can attest to how Sean would lock himself in his house and turn off his phone’s ringer on game day so no one would bother him. They will also tell you, that they all learned very quickly that if Notre Dame lost, not to call him for a minimum of 24 hours! Sean was also a fan of the Detroit Tigers, Tom Petty, and Jeff Gordon.
Though Sean never married nor had children, he was never short on companionship. He was an important member of a very close family and had a gazillion friends. He loved spending time with family and friends both near and far. He traveled extensively throughout the U.S. visiting many, many friends and taking great vacations. In 1999, he was blessed to take a two-week vacation with his family to Ireland. Together they explored the island and their roots, packing in much adventure and making loads of treasured memories. The love of Sean’s life was his faithful and loving Yellow Labrador Retriever, Brandy. For a dozen years, Sean and his four legged-companion shared a deep and affectionate bond that was a gift to both of them.
Sean was a life-long member of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church and was active as a Eucharistic Minister. He was also a proud member of the Knights of Columbus. Sean possessed a strong desire to be of service, especially to his faith community and he was always quick to volunteer his time and talents.
Sean was a man of immeasurable faith in both God and people. And, while he could be perceived as stubborn, he was actually just a man who firmly believed what he believed and who didn’t shy away from standing up for his beliefs. Even in the face of life’s greatest challenges, Sean held fast to his faith. This was most clearly seen as his health struggles worsened. Instead of focusing on his own suffering, time and time again, Sean offered his prayers and support to others. He focused on his blessings and gave thanks for every moment he was gifted. His heart delighted in lightening others’ burdens, making them laugh, or at least inspiring a smile. Sean’s selfless spirit lifted many people who were having a rough day.
Whether he crossed your path for a moment or a lifetime, chances are good that you loved him – and that he loved you! Sean touched countless hearts and lives inspiring all who were blessed to share time with him. Sean embodied his faith; he loved unconditionally, practiced forgiveness, encouraged peace, and remained humble. His heart was a safe place for others to simply be. Even with his final breaths, Sean freely shared how blessed he felt and that he was certain of God’s presence. He and his family were especially thankful that he held on long enough to see the Fighting Irish take down the Wolverines one more time.
Certainly, it is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Sean’s steadfast presence. May we find deep comfort in our many sweet memories of the wonderful man we had the privilege to know. With each volley cheer on high, smile we inspire, time with family we cherish, and service we extend to others, we keep Sean’s passionate legacy of family, faith, and fun alive and continuing to inspire others as he so inspired us.
Sean Francis O’Connor, 51 of Holland, passed away on Friday, September 7, 2018, at Resthaven Care Center following a very lengthy illness.
Sean was born on November 22, 1966, in Ontonogan, MI (that’s right – he was a Yooper!) to Richard O’Connor & Elizabeth O’Connor. Sean worked at Lifesavers for many years until they closed their Holland facility. He also worked for JB Labs for several years.
Sean is survived by his loving mother, Elizabeth O’Connor of Holland; brothers, Kevin (Sandy), and Brian of Holland; and the following nieces and nephews, Alden Dow of Park City, UT, Taylor Dow of Traverse City, Padriac O’Connor, Colin O’Connor, Megan Deters, Mariah O’Connor, Shannon O’Connor, Kyle O’Connor all of Holland, & Lindsey Nelson of Ishpeming, MI. He is preceded in death by his father, Richard O’Connor; siblings, Colleen Dow, and Brendan O’Connor, niece Erin O’Connor, & his beloved dog for over a decade, Brandy.
Visitation for Sean will be Wednesday, September 12 from 2-4pm and 7-9pm at Dykstra Funeral Home – Mulder Chapel, 188 W 32nd St. Holland. A funeral mass will take place on Thursday, September 13 at 11 am at Saint Francis de Sales Parish, 171 W 13th St. in Holland.
In Lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Kindred Hospice, or Resthaven Care Center.
Sean’s entire family is very grateful and we give our deepest thanks to all who cared for Sean over the years. We give special thanks for all the loving, caring staff at Kindred Hospice & Resthaven Care Center. Your support and care for all of us provide such deep comfort as we continue this difficult journey. We couldn’t have gotten through this without each and every one of you.