Remembering Dan O'Connell

Preserving his memory.

Daniel “Dan” Joseph O’Connell, age 39, of Hudson, long-time community activist and funeral director of the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes of Hudson and Baldwin, was killed Tuesday, February 5th, 2002 in Hudson at the very business in which he devoted his life to others.

Dan O’Connell was born February 23rd, 1962, in St Paul, Minnesota, the son of Thomas P. and Janet M (Smisek) O’Connell. He attended elementary school at St. Patrick’s in Hudson and Hudson Middle School. He graduated from Hudson High School in 1981.

While a senior in high school, Dan completed his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) degree at 916 Vo-Tech in White Bear Lake, MN. Dan then began his long career in emergency medicine beginning with the Hudson ambulance service. Dan served as an EMT and most recently as Director of the St. Croix EMS (Hudson Ambulance). During this time, Dan began his secondary schooling at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls to pursue his degree in Mortuary Science.

In 1992, Dan graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota Mortuary Science Section with a 4.0 grade point average.

In 1984, Dan began his career with Health One Transportation and Lakeview Hospital as a 911 Emergency Medical Technician – Paramedic.

In 1998, Dan retired from HealthSpan Ambulance service to concentrate his efforts in the family funeral business.

Dan’s devotion to helping others brought him back to the ambulance service in 2001, when he worked casually for Lakeview Ambulance Service.

On October 22, 1998, he was united in marriage to Jennie Jo McKnight at St. Michaels’s Catholic Church in Stillwater, MN. This union was blessed with two children, Kyle & Kaitlyn, who held a special place in his heart.

Dan’s commitment to the community went far beyond emergency medicine. Dan was an active member of the Hudson Chamber of Commerce where he served on various committees, such as the Ambassador Committee. He was also an active member of the Noon-Time International Rotary Club of Hudson and the Knights of Columbus of St. Patrick’s. Many knew Dan through his intensive involvement with the Pepper Festival of North Hudson. Dan took great pride in helping coordinate the well-renowned Italian food for the Pepper Festival. He took great pleasure in serving as past Pepper Fest King, the parades and pepper / spaghetti eating contests which came with this title. Dan was also an active member of the Hudson Booster Club, assisting with the various projects involving the children of Hudson.

Dan played an active role in fundraising for the Boy Scouts of America and the YMCA of Hudson.

Dan’s dedication to families with the funeral service brought him to be a member of the National Funeral Directors Association and the Wisconsin Funeral Directors Association.

He was recognized with the Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities along with the Golden Key National Honor Society.

Many knew Dan through his efforts to console others through funeral service. Dan sacrificed his time to assure others received his fullest attention. Dan always put others’ needs before his own. Most recently, Dan coordinated the 9/11 Relief, spaghetti dinner fundraiser in efforts to help raise funds for those departments. Dan was very proud that he and his family fed over 2,200 people and raised over $25,000 in these efforts.

Dan played an instrumental role in the recent national award (Pursuit of Excellence Award) which recognized the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes’ commitment and involvement to the communities they served.

Although Dan cherished his work, his greatest love of life was his family and children, of whom he was so very proud. Dan never missed a school program, ball game, or dance recital. Kyle and Kaitlyn were always proud of their dad when he would bring the ambulance for tours and talks.

Dan leaves, to celebrate his life, his wife, Jennie Jo, children, Kyle and Kaitlyn, parents, Thomas & Janet O’Connell of Hudson, brothers Thomas (Carol) O’Connell of Cross Plains, WI & Michael (Carla) O’Connell of Baldwin, sister, Kathleen O’Connell of Hudson, grandmother, Erma O’Connell of Hudson, in-laws, William (Helen) McKnight of Stillwater, MN, sisters-in-law Marilyn (Paul) Omelianchuk of New Brighton, MN, Sandy (Dave) Lennander of Eau Claire, WI, Terry (Scotty) McKnight of Greenwood, AR, Molly (Eric) Barth of White Bear Lake, MN, as well as several nieces, nephews, and countless friends. His grandfathers, Elmer Smisek, Richard O’Connell, grandmother, Elsie Smisek precede him in death.

Visitation was held on Friday from 2 until 8PM at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hudson. Mass of Christian burial was at 11:00am, Saturday, February 9th 2002 at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. Music was provided by the St. Patrick’s Praise Choir, Susan Healy & Kris Peterson. Burial was in the St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery with active casket bearers being Dan Klatt, Troy Klatt, Mark Hedin, Nick Lardoni, Pete Venasse, Bruce Nerby, Mark Hable, Tim Mulvihill, and Glen Mulvihill. The numerous ambulance, fire, and police departments from Western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities served as honorary casket bearers. A tribute for his dedication and commitment to public service was offered by close friend Nan Clements, who served as a special honorary casket bearer. Memorials were directed to local banks where a scholarship fund was established in Kyle and Kaitlyn’s name. Although our hearts are heavy – Dan’s funeral mass was coordinated by his father, Tom and brother, Mike as a special tribute to him and his unselfish commitment to them and their family business.