Leo J. O’Connor, 89, of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania died at home on March 17th. Lee, affectionately known as G.O. (short for “Great One”), was diagnosed with leukemia in November of 2020 and felt strong and ambulatory until a few days before his death. Born in Philadelphia in 1931, Lee grew up in Upper Darby and attended West Catholic High School. Along with his brother Donald, he joined the Christian Brothers in 1949.
While a Brother, Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in Education/Romance Languages and a masters degree in French Literature from the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a second masters degree in Theology from La Salle University. As a teaching sect, the Brothers allowed him to develop and hone his skills as a teacher, something he carried with him throughout his life. Even his grandchildren were regularly subject to “the 50 minute lecture”! He taught middle school, high school and college French and Religion. Before leaving the Brothers he taught in multiple schools within Pittsburgh and the Harrisburg area.
In 1967 Lee left the Christian Brothers and moved closer to home. Visiting Donald one weekend in Baltimore, he met his future wife, Annette Kosorog. The two were married in 1969. Living in Baltimore and then North Jersey, the two juggled teaching careers and, soon enough, three children. They settled in Drexel Hill in 1979 and have remained in their home since. In this time, Lee worked in healthcare management. In retirement, he went back to the 50 minute lecture, teaching World Religions as an adjunct professor at La Salle University, Gwynedd Mercy University and Delaware County Community College.
Curious about the world, his surroundings and his family, GO was an artist, his paintings hung in nearly every room in his home; he was a musician, fostering several musicians in the family and playing piano late into the afternoon in his music room; he was a wordsmith, completing the daily New York Times crossword with ease; he was a philosopher, musing about the cosmos with his grandchildren and the distance between the sun and the Earth; and finally, GO was a cheerleader. He thought everything his children did was special and his family joked that his favorite person, including children and grandchildren, was whoever was standing in front of him. His happy place was always Ocean City, New Jersey where he spent his summers sharing this love with his grandchildren. James Jordan, a close friend of GO’s who coined the nickname Great One, said, regarding his death, “I feel like a little kid who lost his superhero.”
Lee is predeceased by his sister Dolores Georeno, and his brother Donald O’Connor. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Annette O’Connor, his sister, Geri Lillicrapp, his sister-in-law Cecilia Bishop and his three children Hillary O’Connor (Muk Rao), Eric O’Connor (Renee), Justin O’Connor (Rachel Buxbaum), and numerous nieces and nephews including Barbara Childress, Laura Daniels and Christine Lau as well as friends and neighbors.
We asked each of his cherished grandchildren what they learned from GO: Jyothi Rao (17) “the vastness of the universe and all of its uncertainty”, Liam O’Connor (16) “to be curious”, Mali Rao (14) “to appreciate the little things most people don’t notice”, Ainsley O’Connor (14) “to always see the best in a situation and be grateful for what you have”, Samantha O’Connor (13) “how to do a cryptogram and think outside of the box”, Olivia O’Connor (10) “how to paint.”
GO’s reflection on his life, even at the end, was “Lucky”.