Baker City, Oregon
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William Joseph “Joe” O’Connor, 93, a symbol of Baker City, died among family and friends on Jan. 31, 2001, at St. Elizabeth Health Care Center.
A vigil service will be said at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, First and Church streets. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the cathedral. Celebrant will be the Rev. Robert C. Irwin of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. Interment will be in Mount Hope Cemetery. Visitations will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the Coles-Strommer Funeral Home, 1950 Place St.
Mr. O’Connor was a familiar sight around town. He was born on Jan. 8, 1908, to John and Walburga O’Connor. He lived his entire life in Baker City. He attended and graduated from St. Francis Academy and went to college for a year.
He joined the U.S. Army during World War II and served in the Aleutian Islands. Except for his wartime stint, he owned and operated his Gun Shop in Baker City from 1932 to 2000 when it finally closed.
During his life, he was an avid outdoorsman, hunter and miner. He also enjoyed history, writing and photography. He was a man who could tell you just about anything about the history of Baker County and Baker City. He wrote and published the book “The Old Grey Eagle” (about Col. Baker for whom Baker City was named). He also published numerous articles in the “American Rifleman.”
Mr. O’Connor was constantly involved in groups and organizations of interest to him. He was a charter member of the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club in 1953 and was made an honorary life member in 1965.
He worked as an editor of the Powder River Sportsmen’s newspaper from 1958 to 1987. In 1988, the Powder River Sportsmen’s Club started an annual competition shoot in his honor.
He received many awards for conservation during his lifetime, including the Golden Beaver Award from the Oregon Division of the Izaak Walton League in 1976 and the Wildlife Conservation Service Award in 1982.
He was a lifelong member of St. Francis de Sales Parish and the Knights of Columbus. In his lifetime he made unique contributions to the history of Baker City and left a lasting mark on those who knew him. His stories and presence will be deeply missed by family and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Walburga O’Connor; his sister, Walburga Brennan; his brothers, Francis and Micheal O’Connor; and a grandnephew, John Day.
Survivors include his four nieces and one nephew and their spouses, Ann and Matt Kniesel, Margaret and Jon Eyer, Mary and Tom Norton, John and Sandy Brennan and Colleen and Jeff Collier; 14 grandnieces and grandnephews and their spouses, Tony Day, Michael Day, Theresa and Brett Hamilton, Colleen and Lenny Keiser, Christine Eyer, Jon and Jennifer Eyer, Matthew Eyer, Jenell and Jimmy Zamora, Benjamin and Cynthia Norton, Calvin Collier, Joseph Collier, Jacob Collier, Michael and Becky Brennan and Angela Brennan; and six great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews, Thomas Hamilton, Samuel Hamilton, Jonathon Brennan, Samantha Brennan, John Keiser and Joseph Keiser and two soon to born.
Memorial contributions may be made to the St. Francis de Sales Knights of Columbus Scholarship Fund through the Coles-Strommer Funeral Home, 1950 Place St., Baker City, Ore. 97814.
Used with permission from: The Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, February 2, 2001
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor