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*** UPDATED x1 *** Bill O’Connell

Monday, Sep 24, 2012

* There will just never be another one like him. May he rest in peace, and I hope there’s a bar there for him

From a slate of senators, congressmen, governors and two Mayor Daleys on down, anybody who was anybody in Illinois politics over many decades knew and respected Bill O’Connell, the last of a breed of journalist-activists who covered the news in Springfield and wasn’t shy about making the news happen behind the scenes along the way.

William J. O’Connell Jr., 83, died Sunday, Sept. 23, of complications from cancer.

From 1955 until his retirement in 1996, he commanded the political and Statehouse beat for the Peoria Journal Star. He quickly built a reputation for keeping a keen watch over Illinois’ public officials.

But it was Mr. O’Connell’s deep understanding of why and how things got done that brought admiration from his readers, fellow reporters and top politicians. […]

When Richard M. Daley was a young man sent to work on the state’s 1970 Constitution in Springfield, he was urged to sit down with Mr. O’Connell to learn some of the more important ins and outs. And whenever Daley returned as mayor before retiring last year, he would speak about the one reporter he knew well in Springfield: Bill O’Connell.

O’Connell was somebody I always looked up to. We had different styles, different goals, different ways of doing business, different tastes, but Bill was the man. And everybody knew it

Credited with the ability to bring together lawmakers from downstate and the Chicago area to the benefit of both, O’Connell was both journalist and community promoter. His influence helped persuade lawmakers to, among other things, fund the Peoria Civic Center and other area improvements.

“I can’t think of a major project or event in the Peoria area that he didn’t have a powerful hand behind the scenes in making happen,” state Rep. David Leitch, a former reporting colleague, said at O’Connell’s 1996 retirement.

He stomped on the terra.

*** UPDATE *** Bill O’Connell Services…

Visitation will be 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Wright & Salmon Mortuary, 2416 N. North St.

Visitation also will be from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 509 E. Kansas St., Peoria. Mass will start at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church.

Mass will be followed by burial at Resurrection Cemetery, 7519 N. Allen Road, Peoria, according to Wright & Salmon.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - redrum - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 1:50 pm:

    John O’Connell never burnt a source or put his friends in a bad light. O’Connell was a reporter everyone trusted. In return, he scored huge points for his community!

  2. - Commonsense in Illinois - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 1:50 pm:

    Billl was a true gentleman in every sense of the word, but he didn’t suffer fools. I was very fortunate to know him.

  3. - anon sequitor - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 2:12 pm:

    “Never argue with a guy who buys ink and paper by the train load!”

    God bless and keep you Bill! And if I know Bill, he already negotiated a good place in heaven before he passed.

  4. - Matt jones - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 2:15 pm:

    when I first came to Springfield to work on staff after being an ASA in peoria, the universal advice was to talk to Bill. at first I thought it was old school hyperbole, but after the zillionith war story involving Bill, I decided I should respect my elder. I’m glad I did. I certainty wasn’t a protege’ but he was generous with his time and insights. we all would be better if more legislators followed the example he showed for those many years. I’m a better in Springfield because of him.

  5. - Brendan - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 4:03 pm:

    Mayors Daley, not Mayor Daleys.

    Just like “Attorneys General”.


  6. - Steve Brown - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 4:46 pm:

    Capt Fax:

    Thanks for passing along the info on Bill’s services.

    When I first went to the State House in the mid 70s for the DaiIy Herald I was shown a desk in a corner office. I was told to pay attention to the little guy nearby because he had probably forgotten more about journalism, the legislature, politics and life than most of us would ever learn. My guide was right.

    Ziggy was a friend and mentor.
    He was happy to share.
    He was an advocate for the Peoria region.
    He understood how to match the interests of downstate with the urban areas better than anyone I have ever met.

    He did it all with wit and wisdom.

    The last few weeks have not been good because I knew a great friend was not going to be with us much longer.

    Keep a hand on our shoulders Bill in the time ahead.

    My prayer is for your family to be comforted and strengthened in these difficult moments. I hopend that they take great pride in your life and all the Gracve and Elmers you informed and helped.

  7. - Esquire - Monday, Sep 24, 12 @ 4:53 pm:

    My acquaintance with Bill O’Connell was due to his active participation in Irish fraternal organizations and he was the genuine article. He was willing to put in the miles and travel to Irish functions throughout the State of Illinois.

    I thought that it was a great honor when he served as the Illinois State President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He was bright and energetic and how he loved Peoria!

    God bless Bill! I am positive that St. Patrick rushed tp the Pearly Gates in order to push St. Peter aside to be the first to tell Bill “Welcome Home!”

  8. - tom dun - Saturday, Sep 29, 12 @ 8:44 am:

    If he trusted you, it was like a kid having the key to what he wanted the most of.We shared more than one drink, slept at his house more than once.It is true,it will be a long time before we see the likes of him again.You really don’t miss many,he is in the top ten.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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