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O’CONNELL, Connie

June 17, 1922 – Miles City, Montana
April 19, 2015 – Calgary, Alberta

Connie O’Connell, formerly Connie Hodges, long-time resident of High River, passed away on Sunday, April 19, 2015 at the age of 92 years.

Mary Jean “Connie” O’Connell was born June 17, 1922 in Miles City, Montana. She spent her early years between Montana and Long Lake, Minnesota where her mother’s family lived. Mary Jean arrived in Canada in a horse drawn wagon when her mother (a Montana school teacher) and her father (a Montana cowboy) went to southern Saskatchewan to homestead. The family endured many hardships, including the drought and the great depression during this time.

Mary Jean was proud to enlist in the women’s division of the Royal Canadian Air Force. She was stationed on the east coast of New Brunswick where she worked in the control tower as a radio operator where she scheduled and assisted in the flight training for the fighter pilots going overseas. She was also stationed in Manitoba where she worked on the bombing and gunnery range. It was in the air force that she acquired the name “Connie” as the air force traditionally tagged their personnel from their last names.

When WWII ended, Connie enrolled at the University of Toronto in the Bachelor of Arts program, majoring in economics and minoring in journalism. Before starting university, Connie and her friend Cookie hitchhiked across Canada, telling her mother about the trip only once she had arrived safely for her visit. Connie was instrumental in forming the International Students Association, which is still in existence today. She developed lasting friendships from all over the world with this association. After graduating with her Bachelor degree in Arts, she worked as a social worker in Toronto in what is known as “Cabbage Town,” a socially disadvantaged area where Connie often found the circumstances heart breaking to deal with.

Always the practical one, and having never enjoyed cooking, Connie decided that when she finished her social working job for the day she would find a high-end restaurant to work a few hours and get a discounted or free meal. Win win! It was there that she met her first love, another westerner Johnnie Hodges, whom she married on March 24, 1951. She found social work upsetting and pursued her real love of journalism and reporting by working for the Toronto Star.

In 1953, Connie, Johnnie, their first born April and mother Kathryn O’Connell packed up and went west in a panel truck detouring through the USA as the Trans Canada did not exist at that time. They settled in Alberta where Connie remained for the rest of her life and her five other children were born.

Connie worked for CFAC radio station and the Calgary Herald as a correspondent for fifteen years. Connie and Johnnie contributed greatly to the controversial fledgling newspaper The Eagle View Post. Her accurate feature articles were an important contribution to the integrity of the local news. Connie was an activist in defending democratic rights for unbiased reporting.

Life was challenging while raising six children with her husband Johnnie. The family appreciated her homemade bread and her endless mending of clothes. Her children have fond memories of hot cocoa that greeted them when they arrived home off the school bus and the fun filled family campfire outings. The children recall their parents laughing, hugging and dancing around the kitchen table. Sadly, Connie and Johnnie divorced in 1983, but in later years rekindled their friendship and remained close until his death on April 19, 2011.

Connie had a second chance at love when she met a younger man John Phillips (her friend’s son). She fondly called John her “significant other” and they spent twenty-five years travelling, flying and enjoying life. In recent years, John has remained her close friend and supported Connie in the last difficult years while she struggled with vascular dementia.

Connie loved her family, close friends and was always mindful of other people’s wants and needs. Connie was an avid scrabble player, reader, well-informed on current affairs, a family historian, loved nature, horses, wildlife, was always kind to animals. She rescued stray cats and dogs (having them neutered) to help them find their forever home.

Connie is survived by her children, April Hodges, Robin Hodges, Jay Hodges, Lee Hodges, Dixie Lorena Hodges and Bonnie Vold; grandchildren, Jeff (Cathy) Hewko, Glen (Britney) Hewko, Regan (Whitney) Curry, Alexander Curry, Chandra Lee Curry, Shaynna Helfeinstein, and Casey Hodges; and great-grandchildren Jesse and Colton Hewko, Kason, Tristen, Kinsley Hewko and Mason Henry Curry.

Funeral Services will be held at Snodgrass Funeral Home (301 McLeod Trail, High River, AB) on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Forward condolences through www.mcinnisandholloway.com. A special thank you to John Phillips, who with kindness and love helped make Connie’s life easier and fulfilling the last years. Also a special thank you to childhood friend of eighty-one years Kathleen Werner of Langley, BC and long-time friend Helen Brockway for her loving friendship over the years. Connie’s family would like to thank Gloria Morley and Guadalope Ball for their dedication, kindness, loving care and friendship which helped Connie enjoy her last few years. Also a thank you to Lesley Hardy for all of her help, love and caring through the years. And thank you to the amazing Dr. Veronica Maholtra for her compassionate loving care.

In living memory of Connie O’Connell, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Fish Creek, 14441 BANNISTER ROAD S.E. Telephone: 403-256-9575.

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Condolence Messages

  1. April & Family,

    Although we know that no words can ease the loss you feel, just know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.

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  2. Joan & Ralph Polnau

    Dear cousins, we are so sorry to hear of your loss. We remember Aunt Connie with very fond memories. We wish we were able to come for her funeral, but because of our health issues we won’t be able to. We send our love and condolences. Joan (Lewis) and Ralph Polnau.

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  3. My heartfelt sympathy to Connie’s children, especially my dear friend Dixie who dedicated her life over the last 5 years to caring for her Mom who she loves so very much. Dixie… may your wonderful memories of your Mom be with you always, she loved you and was so proud of you. You were always her angel. I am sending you an angel to comfort you at this sad time…

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  4. Mary Lou Carleton

    Our sympathy is extended to all of you. Connie was such a ‘neat’ lady. A great friend and wonderful neighbour. We all missed her when she moved. It was a privilege to have known her. May she rest in peace.

    Terry, Mary Lou and Kevin Carleton

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  5. It has been a pleasure and a blessing to have known Connie. My thoughts are with her family and please accept my condolences. What a lady, and what a great life she lived. A proud example to us all.

    -Doris

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