Richard A. “Okie” O'Connor, 81, of West Harwich, formally of Holden, a retired Associate Professor of Psychology, and coach of Cross-Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track at Worcester State College passed away Tuesday, April 11th at the St. Francis Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Worcester after a long illness.
He was pre-deceased by his wife Geraldine in 2010 and his best friend, coach and mentor John Wallace in 1981. “Okie” was born in Worcester on February 7, 1936, son of Francis and Anna (Coyne) O'Connor. He graduated from Commerce High School in 1955, where he was an outstanding sprinter for the Indoor and Outdoor Track Teams. He was the City of Worcester Champion in the 300 yard run.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Clark University in 1962, a Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Assumption College in 1966 followed by a C.A.G.S. in 1972. He began his career in Education in 1962 as a Social Studies teacher at Fitchburg High School. He then taught at West Boylston High School where he also coached Track & Field. From 1966-68 he was an instructor in the Psychology Department at Quinsigamond Community College. In 1968 he was hired by Worcester State College as an Associate Professor of Psychology where he remained until his retirement in 1994.
In 1969, “Okie” was the guiding force behind the implementation of the Worcester State College Indoor and Outdoor Track Programs. He holds the distinction of being the first coach at Worcester State to have a student-athlete gain NCAA All-American status. Okie guided the Lancer Outdoor Track Teams to two Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference Championships in 1972 and 1976. He also coached Cross-Country from 1970-75. He was inducted into the Worcester State College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. Over his 17 year Track career, “Okie” coached several NCAA Division III All-American and New England Champions. He was an exceptional motivator and his favorite saying was "All the Way, All the Way, All the Way."
His faith played a significant role in his life. He was a former member of St. George's Parish in Worcester and a member of Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in West Harwich, where he attended Mass daily, served a weekly hour of Eucharistic Adoration and was an active volunteer. He loved to travel, but also enjoyed spending quiet time on the beach near his home.
He will be dearly missed by his former student/athletes, especially his best friends; John Hoogasian, Rich Riley, Steve Hennigan, Bill Gaudere, and Jim O’Neil.
A special thank you to the caring staff at St. Francis for the wonderful care they provided to “Okie” during his stay there.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend visiting hours at Callahan, Fay & Caswell Funeral Home, 61 Myrtle St., Worcester on Monday, April 17th, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.. His funeral will be celebrated on Tuesday, April 18th, at 11:00 a.m. with a Mass of Christian Burial held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 353 Grove St., Worcester with burial to follow in St. John’s Cemetery. Memorial donations may be sent to Holy Trinity Parish St. Vincent de Paul Society, P.O. Box 428, W. Harwich, MA 02671.