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A tribute to...

William John "Bill" O'Connell

Published: Mon 6th Dec 2021

When William John "Bill" "Billy Boy" O'Connell passed away peacefully in the home he shared with his partner Bev Knight in Reservoir on Saturday, November 27, it marked the end of an 87-year adventure.

Born on 29th April 1934 to William John O'Connell (senior) and Mary Genevieve (nee: Ward) at the Queen Victoria Melbourne. He was the younger brother of Mary and older brother to Shirley (dec.) and Brian (dec.). Bill was destined to follow in the newsprint footsteps of his father, uncles and grandfather. After he completed his National Service as a Sapper in the Australian Army, Bill went on to complete 40 years of service at the Herald Weekly Times.

As a child growing up in footy mad Melbourne, his hero was one of the Greats, "Captain Blood (Jack Dyer)", so naturally he became a diehard Richmond supporter.

As a young boy of 19, Bill married his sweetheart Joyce Rodwell. Their wedding was photographed by the Herald Weekly Times in 1954. They went on to have a beautiful marriage which included 6 children, eldest Michael, daughter Kerry and Peter, Shane, William and Stephen followed. Bill worked hard to support his family. "The family grew, so did the expenses, therefore Bill took on another job as a milkman in and around Thornbury, his old stomping ground."

"Each day he'd head off to the train to the city at 8am, work all day, train home, have some family time, often footy training, eat tea and go to bed and be up at 3am to drive to the dairy, harness the horse and cart, load up and deliver milk until 6am…" rinse and repeat. He had a well-earned reputation as a hardworking family man, but he was also, importantly, "full of life", "cheeky", and a "prankster".

Bill played football with Thornbury YCW and represented the Herald Publishing Department in their social challenge matches against the Herald Journalists and the Sun newspaper team, held as a part of the Herald Social Group. Bill was often Santa's helper at the Herald and Weekly Times annual Christmas Picnic too.

A snippet from the Herald's staff magazine from January 1953 captures the family's long link to the publishing department in particular. The piece tracks the career of Michael William O'Connell who arrived in 1910 and stayed until retirement in 1950. Michael, (Bill's grandfather) and his three sons (William (Bill's dad), Kevin and Joseph) came to work there too. In 1953, Michael's grandson William junior (Bill) started there as an 18-year-old.

He was a treasured grandfather and great grandfather of 24 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren. He and his witty repartee will be sorely missed.

The family would like to thank Melbourne City Mission and Baptcare for their support to enable Bill to spend his final hours at home.

Bill's funeral will be held on Tuesday, December 7 at Noon at Our Lady of the Way, Kingsbury - overseen by Funeral Directors Ern Jenson, of Thornbury.

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