James Joseph O'Connell


James J. O’Connell was born February 7, 1933 to his parents Joseph J. and Virginia (Boyd) O’Connell in Lockport, Illinois.  He grew up in the area of Lockport and Joliet, Illinois.  He attended St. Patrick Catholic Grade School, graduated from Joliet Township High School and was an honor student at Joliet Jr. College.  

In 1954 he served in the U.S. Army as PFC in the 24th Infantry Division during the Korean War for 2 years, and the Army reserve for 6 years.  

It was during this time he married the love of his life, Phyllis A. (Berard) on August 1st 1953.

After returning from Korea, he attended college on the GI Bill and graduated from Lewis University earning a B.S. in Business Administration and Economics in 1958.  While attending Lewis University he also earned his Private Pilot’s License, which he maintained for many years.  He attended Purdue University, DePaul University and also attended many continuing education courses at various universities for business, computer science, and economic development.  

After graduation, James began his career in Insurance and Real Estate, and became a Real Estate Broker in Illinois in 1959.  He was Owner/Broker of O’Connell Enterprises until his retirement.  These endeavors promoted extensive civic and business affiliations throughout his lifetime, including service on numerous boards and committees.  In the early 1960’s he joined the Will County Real Estate Board, and was Director of the South Suburban Real Estate Board.  as the Will County Director, then Secretary-Treasurer, in 1972 he became president of the Real Estate Board.  In 1973 he was elected Regional State Vice-President of the Illinois Realtors Association.  Then in 1977 was elected to a statewide post of the Illinois Association of Realtors as a State Director.  A post he held for 3 years, until the fall of 1980.  He participated on numerous State committees over the next several years, which went on to include the State Chairman By-Laws committee of Farm and Land Institute, and on the Advisory Council of SBA for the State of Illinois.  

In 1976, James was elected Will County Recorder of Deeds, until 1988.

James was very active in community service during his lifetime, including:

Jaycees and JCI beginning in 1958.  Elected to the Jaycees Hall of Fame in 1993

Knights of Columbus, member since 1956.

Will County Board of Realtors, 1968 – 1980.

Director and Officer, Lewis University Alumni, 1980-1983.

Appointed to the Joliet Port District 1972.

Illinois Association of Port Districts.

Three Rivers Manufacturing Association – Public Affairs Committee.

Director and President, Guardian Angels Home Alumni, 1982 – 1987.

Various Chambers of Commerce, 1959 – 1965.

County Crusade Chairman American Cancer Society.

Aurora Blood Bank Board of Directors, 6 years.

Joliet Exchange Club.

Joliet Youth Task Force – Director, Officer.

Joliet Columbian Club – President.

Life member, American Legion.

Life member, Veteran of Foreign Wars.

Including many other organizations.  

After his retirement, he continued to be active in real estate and enjoyed travel to many countries.  He travelled to his beloved Ireland numerous times.  His life journey brought him to Wyoming, where he lived for 20 years.  

He is survived by his wife, Phyllis of 69 years and three daughters, Lynn, Kathryn, Julie and one grandchild, Rachel.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Virginia and a step-sister, Nancy Cizar.

Memorial Contributions in James’s name may be made to:

American Cancer Society

333 S. Beach

Casper, WY 82601

 Champion Funeral Home has been entrusted with local arrangements. On-line condolenses may be made at championfh.com.




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