* 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.