By: Cathy Chambers
Patrick J. O’Connor, Chicago’s 40th Ward Alderman is a recognized community leader who has worked for the development and improvement in the 40th Ward since 1983. His contributions to the City of Chicago and its Irish community are evident by his affiliations in many diversified clubs, committees, and charitable organizations. He has applied his abilities as a lawyer, community leader and alderman to implement change, improving public schools, creating new jobs, improving health care systems, keeping our neighborhoods safe, and rebuilding city infrastructure. Pat said, “My father encouraged me to go into a profession of service so that I could give back to my community. I consider myself lucky to work on a job with the primary purpose being that of making the lives of Chicago’s citizens, and the community we live in, better and better.”
Over his years in the City Council, Pat O’Connor has gone from being Mayor Richard M. Daley’s “unofficial ﬂoor leader” to Mayor Emanuel’s ﬂoor leader. He works collaboratively with his colleagues and currently chairs the Committee on Workforce Development & Audit, through which most recently passed all of the current union contracts for the City of Chicago. Pat understands the need for good jobs that pay a living wage and oversaw the passing of a $13 minimum wage in the City of Chicago by 2019. “As a former Teamster union member myself, I have great respect for the men and women who keep Chicago moving forward. That includes all businesses, private and public, and all the employees that comprise the workforce.”
The O’Connor Family has attended and participated in the Plumbers Local 130’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade since the beginning, and are staunch supporters. Pat walked with his father as a GAA (Gaelic Football Club) member, the City of Chicago’s Bureau of Equipment & Services contingent, and finally with the 40th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. He is a proud first generation Irishman, whose roots stem from the west of Ireland. His father, Patrick O’Connor, Sr. emigrated from Killarney, County
Kerry and his mother, Barbara Dever O’Connor’s father from County Mayo. However, Patrick is not the first O’Connor to be Grand Marshal of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In 2016, his Uncle, Michael O’Connor at 104 years of age, led Killarney’s Parade as Grand Marshal. Pat’s paternal grandfather passed away at a young age. He said, “My father grew up without a father figure and without an example to follow, yet was a strong and inﬂuential presence in my life.” Education was always stressed in the O’Connor home from an early age. It was important that Pat and his four siblings attended good universities. After graduating high school, Pat received both his B.A. and law degrees from Loyola University of Chicago.
It is truly an honor and privilege to represent my parents, family, and our Irish heritage as the Grand Marshal in this tradition celebrating our culture. I want to congratulate Justice Anne Burke as the Guest of Honor and for her participation in the Special Olympics. A special thanks to Plumbers Local 130 UA and Business Manager James Coyne for their ongoing hard work and dedication to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Third grade was a decisive point in Patrick O’Connor’s life. As he tells it, “At the beginning of the school year, the class was seated in alphabetical order and I was one chair behind Barbara Odishoo. And the rest is history!” They dated through high school and college and celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary this past July. Their five children, Hilary, Patrick, Claire, Courtney, and Moira along with their seven grandchildren, Mark, Christian, Colin, Emmett, Kaitlin, Patrick and Norah are fortunate to live within four blocks of each other.
Also, Pat’s brothers Rob and Dan, his sister Cathy, and their mother all live within a few city blocks of each other. As Pat said, “It takes a village of O’Connors to raise a village of O’Connors.” Pat has visited Ireland a number of times, first with his father and older brother when he was four years old.
“I remember my brother Michael and I walking in the woods with my father when my dad called out that he thought he had spotted a Leprechaun and took off after him. The three of us gave chase to find a small pot with Irish coins in it at the end of the path. My dad went on to tell us that the Leprechaun had tricked him. Apparently, before he emigrated he had caught the ‘wee fellow’ who promised he would give his pot of money up when my dad returned to Ireland with his sons. My father went to great lengths to help us participate in the magic that exists in Ireland. Enjoying the camaraderie at house parties until the early morning hours was common among the Irish immigrants, their families and friends. “Whether you could actually carry a tune or not, everyone was encouraged to sing a song,” stated Pat. Patrick’s father hosted an Irish radio program for several years, which meant Irish music was in abundance and was often heard in the background.
At the age of 63, Pat has missed four or five parades. Some he remembers vividly, and some during his college years less; however, Plumbers Local 130’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has always been a part of the O’Connor Family’s tradition. Pat said, “I feel a special kinship for the day because it is my feast day, not just a great day to be Irish. O’Connor marchers reminisce year after year retelling one good story after another. Their pride and awareness of this family day is very apparent.”
During the course of his career, Pat has received numerous honors and awards, in particular from the American Cancer Society for work on Smoke Free Chicago. An advocate for children, Pat served for over 20 years as the Chairman of the Committee on Education and Child Development on Chicago’s public school reform movement. Patrick was one of the founding members of the National League of Cities Institute on Youth Education and Families, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Formed in the 1990s with former Mayor Tom Menino of Boston and others under the auspices of the National League of Cities, the Institute serves as a resource to elected officials and municipalities across the country. He was instrumental in bringing Northside College Prep to the northwest side of Chicago, a school that has distinguished itself academically as the top high school in the State of Illinois. He has helped secure additions, new playgrounds and infrastructure improvements for almost every school in the 40th Ward over the years.
Pat is extremely honored to have been chosen as this year’s Grand Marshal and stated, “While the parade is an opportunity to celebrate my Irish heritage, it is also a day to celebrate the hard working Irish men and women who have, through their hard work and union affiliation, helped to make the City of Chicago one of the best places in the world to raise one’s family.”
A highly regarded and lifelong resident of the northwest side of Chicago, Patrick and his wife Barbara, their children and grandchildren, along with a host of family and friends, some of whom will travel to Chicago from Ireland, will proudly walk in 2018’s Plumbers Local 130 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Visit the St. Patrick’s Day Parade website for Saturday’s schedule of events.