Thomas C. O’Connell, age 84, of Maple Plain, died Tuesday, April 10, 2012, in Boca Raton, following a cerebral incident, while at sea in the Lesser Netherlands Antilles.
An ardent traveler, O’Connell departed this world in the manner in which he lived with his face to the wind, his sights to the sky, and his mind to posterity.
Thomas grew up in Westchester County, NY during the golden age of jazz, and he possessed the spirit of optimism and adventure that characterized the era. At age 15, he won a football scholarship to Iona Preparatory Academy, followed by a scholarship to Georgetown University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and finance.
Thomas entered the business world as a corporate manager for General Electric, later for Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and Continental Can, and served as vice-president for trade and acquisitions at General Mills. He was founder and CEO of Northstar Industries, Inc., a Minneapolis group that emerged from the General Mills acquisition function.
Graduate studies at the Wharton School of Management, University of Pennsylvania, with a thesis in international finance, propelled O’Connell to a significant role in the field of corporate mergers and acquisitions. His business skills were inspired by his early adolescent experiences, where he learned to stay low, hit hard, move fast, and believe in hard work and total commitment to worthwhile goals.
Thomas is survived by his loving partner, Alison Brion; his children, Tom (Janice), Timothy (Jim), Brian (Patti), Dan, Kathleen Sereda (Gorden), Karen Wheaton (Chris), and Jake; and grandchildren Katie, Kevin, Jenna, Lindsay, Ryan, Christopher, Siobhan, and Teagan.
He is also survived by his former wife, Claire, of Edina; and his brothers, Jack and Dennis of New York.
Thomas was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas M. and Louise; and a brother, Don.
In addition to professional achievements, Thomas was a man of intellectual interests, a student of classic literature and music, and an advocate for social justice. A man of varied interests and high energy, he pursued sports, wildlife, hunting, and conservation. Gardening and woodworking were hobbies that brought him pleasure and relaxation.
An avid student of history, Thomas was a devotee of Jeffersonian philosophy and an analytical thinker, who examined theories of politics and government.
His memberships, stemming from a passion for horsemanship, included the Poor Boys Camp of Caballeros del Norte, and the Charlie Russell Riders. Thomas was proud of his contributions to the Delano Lions Club, and the Wayzata Rotary, as well as his commitment to sobriety as a 30-year member of Alcoholics Anonymous. His work in Amicus, helping inmates and ex-offenders reshape their lives, was an important part of his community vision. Thomas also served as chairman of the Board of Trustees at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.
Services took place Saturday, April 21 at 12:15 p.m., at Lakewood Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis, with visitation beginning at 11:30 a.m. Interment followed the service.
The David Lee Funeral Home in Wayzata handled the arrangements; www.davidleefuneralhome.com. Memorials may be sent to Union Gospel Mission, 77 East 9th Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 or to Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis.