James Edward O’Connor, 81 of Gaylord passed away April 6, 2014 at Munson Medical Center. He was born on September 16, 1932 in Detroit to Edward and Katherine (Hawkins) O’Connor.
After changing schools numerous times during a turbulent childhood, Jim quit high school and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on his 18th birthday in September of 1950, without his parent’s knowledge or consent. Upon completion of recruit and infantry training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, he was assigned to Item Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton, CA. Jim was then deployed for active duty in the Korean War where he fought in the battles of Bunker Hill and “The Hook”. He received 3 purple hearts and a bronze star (with combat “V” for valor) during this first tour. He was severely injured on “The Hook” and was sent home to recover at Great Lakes Naval Hospital. Upon recovering, he was assigned to Subic Bay in the Philippines and then returned to Korea for his second tour when he was assigned to the 1st Marine Division Reconnaissance Company (Recon). Jim was then assigned to Quantico, VA, where he achieved the rank of Sergeant prior to being honorably discharged in April, 1956.
Jim completed his high school equivalency and enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C. where he studied English and Theatre Arts. Upon graduation from AU and the National Academy of Broadcasting, he moved to New York City where he joined the American Theatre Wing and then worked as an actor and writer under the stage name of Sheamus O’Connor. He eventually returned to the Detroit area where he continued acting, modeling, and broadcasting, acting in plays at the Northland Playhouse with the likes of Bert Lahr, Kenny Delmar, Julie Harris, Joey Heatherton, Betty White, Walter Slezak, and Ann Sheridan.
At this time, while working primarily in Detroit, he met his future wife, Lorri Kawiak, at a cast party. Lorri was a former beauty queen, auto show model, and spokeswoman for various products and companies. Jim and Lorri were married on October 14th, 1961 in East Detroit, Mi. They settled in Warren, Mi and began a family. Jim worked in pharmaceutical sales for a number of years before moving onto land sales at Lakes of the North, in Northern Michigan just outside of Gaylord. They sold their home in Bloomfield and their cottage on Higgins Lake and moved north, eventually buying a home in Gaylord on West Otsego Lake Drive.
Jim transitioned from vacation property sales to general real estate, working for Ski & Shore and Garrett Realty. After a number of years working for his good friend, Jim Garrett, he bought Gaylord Mortgage & Realty Co. in 1978, where he was the owner-broker and Lorri the office manager. Jim and Lorri, and GMR were mainstays in the Gaylord real estate business for twenty-five years, before selling the company, the office building and the mini-storage building in 2003.
Jim and Lorri bought a condo at The Otsego Club and began to enjoy retirement. Their children and grandchildren spent the holidays and many weekends skiing and snowboarding in the winter and golfing in the summer. They remained active in business and the community, managing their rental properties and enjoying the northern Michigan life style in the Gaylord area. Jim became an avid biker, and at age 70, embarked on a remarkable 9700 mile six week trip by himself to Alaska and back. Known as “Sarge”, he was a member of The Leathernecks Motorcycle Club where he thoroughly enjoyed his time in the saddle at meetings, trips, and rallies.
Reported to Final Duty Station: