Baker loses a loyal supporter in O'Connor

February 01, 2001 12:00 am

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

William J. Joe OConnor, a retired businessman and lifetime community supporter who opened his first gun shop in Baker City in 1932, died Wednesday. He was 93.

Mr. OConnor closed his Safari Outfitters business at 1826 Main St., in February of last year after undergoing gall bladder surgery, according to his niece Ann Kniesel. He had operated the shop, which included a national mail order business, at the same location since 1963.

Mr. OConnor never married. He made his home with his sister, Walburga Brennan, and her family. They had lived at 1517 First St., at the house left to them by their parents, since 1926, Kniesel said.

Mrs. Brennan died Dec. 29.

Mr. OConnor moved to Settlers Park in March and had been at the nursing home since July.

He always counted us as his family, Kniesel said. His church and his community and his family were the most important things in his life. He was a very good man.

Joe Dethloff, North Powder post master, said Mr. OConnor was one of the first people he met when he moved to Baker City in 1976. He was active in the Knights of Columbus with him and also delivered mail to him at his business when he worked as a letter carrier.

Dethloff recalled that OConnor never drove, but could be seen regularly walking around Baker City.

As an historian and writer, he compiled the histories of several organizations, including the Knights of Columbus and the Powder River Sportsmens Club. He wrote a book, The Old Grey Eagle, about Edward Dickinson Baker, for whom Baker City and Baker County were named.

He was quite a guy, Dethloff said. Im gonna miss him.

Mr. OConnor was an avid outdoorsman, hunter and miner.

He was one of the founders of the Powder River Sportsmens Club in 1953 and served as the organizations treasurer until 1980. He edited the groups newsletter from 1958 to 1987 and was made an honorary life member in 1967. An annual competitive shoot is named in his honor.

He opened his first gun shop at 1906 Main St. in 1932 and continued in that location until 1942 when he joined the U.S. Army where he spent his next four years, Kniesel said.

When he returned home, he moved the Gun Shop to 2009 First St. He remained in that location from 1947 to 1963, when he moved the business back to Main Street.

Mr. OConnor was born on Jan. 8, 1908, at Baker City to John and Walburga OConnor. He was a 1926 graduate of St. Francis Academy.

He attended college back east for a year before returning to Baker City to begin his business, Kniesel said.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Coles-Strommer Funeral Home. A vigil service will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral, First and Church streets. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the cathedral. Visitations will be from 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

A complete obituary will be published Friday.