By Emily J. Minor
OCEAN RIDGE — Daniel J. O’Connell, a prominent contractor and former Ocean Ridge mayor whose daughter said he was always loved for that impish “twinkle in his eye,” died Dec. 16. Mr. O’Connell was 86.
“He was a hilarious man,” said daughter Danielle Murphy, who lives in Boynton Beach. “He was funny, serious and down to earth. Everyone loved him.”
Born in Holyoke, Mass. — where he lived until moving to Florida in 1972 — Mr. O’Connell went directly from his hometown high school to the Air Force, where he served from 1948 to 1952. Afterward, he attended the University of Massachusetts, where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
At the university, he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and then spent 15 years as a general contractor with Perini Corp. With Perini, later renamed Tutor Perini Corp., Mr. O’Connell moved to Florida to head a new division, said Danielle Murphy.
Then he started his own company, Daniel O’Connell General Contractors, and worked on many prominent projects through the years, many of them along the coast.
In Ocean Ridge, he was always involved in community work, whether in politics or community service. Mr. O’Connell served as mayor and town commissioner. He was also active in the Delray Beach Elks Lodge 1770 and past president of the Palm Beach County General Contractors Association. An accomplished pilot, Mr. O’Connell flew privately out of Palm Beach County Park Airport (Lantana Airport) for many years.
A man of strong Catholic faith, Mr. O’Connell was a member of the Florida Knights of Columbus Council 13996 District 68 and an active parishioner in both St. Mark Catholic Church, Boynton Beach, and St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, Delray Beach. He also worked to support the Diocese of Palm Beach.
Memorial contributions are suggested to the building fund at St. Vincent Ferrer, where Mr. O’Connell sat on the advisory board for a major school and church expansion project. The family asks that any donations be made to that capital project in Mr. O’Connell’s name.
Surviving their father are his six children: Danielle; Karin Lieberman, of Newton, Mass.; Susan Drummey, of Hudson, Mass.; Daniel O’Connell, of Denver; Nan Maley, of Framingham, Mass.; and John O’Connell, of Swansboro, N.C. In addition, 11 grandchildren and several sons- and daughters-in-law survive him.
Mr. O’Connell also leaves behind one brother, Charles, who recently moved from Florida to New Hampshire; and his ex-wife, Debby O’Connell, a local real estate agent with Hampton Real Estate Group.
Although they were divorced, Debby and Mr. O’Connell remained close friends and provided constant love and support to their children and grandchildren, Danielle said.
Visitation was Dec. 21, with a funeral Mass 11 a.m. Jan. 6 at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, 840 George Bush Blvd., Delray Beach.
“He was your typical ornery little Irishman,” said his daughter. “That’s why everybody loved him.”
By Emily J. Minor