Clifford Thompson O’Connell of Woods Hole died July 14. Mr. O’Connell, 84, died at JML Care Center in Falmouth from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
He was the husband of Hope (Horner) O’Connell, to whom he was married 55 years.
Born in Fall River, at the age of 7 he moved with his parents, Harold and Viola (Makowsky) O’Connell, and his older brother, Bobby, from Bristol, Rhode Island, to West Falmouth. He grew up ice skating on cranberry bogs, exploring the hillsides of the village and jumping into the water off the Chapoquoit Road bridge, as well as enjoying Saturday matinees at the Elizabeth Theater downtown on Main Street.
When he was 10 he began delivering newspapers—and would continue doing the paper route for many years—and discovered his talent for piano. He rode the train home from Depot Avenue after his piano lessons to where the tracks (now the Shining Sea Bikeway) passed behind his family home.
After his parents built a house on Meadow Lane in Falmouth, the family moved there in 1950 and, as a teenager, he delivered groceries for Swift’s Market to summer estates in Woods Hole and Penzance Point. Thirty years later Dr. O’Connell would purchase the “dumpy” house in the Woods Hole neighborhood as his own summer home.
He graduated from Lawrence High School with the Class of 1956. He paid for much of the cost of his undergraduate and medical education at Tufts University with money he earned playing piano around Falmouth: Saturday nights he played at Sherry’s Bar on Main Street, and Sunday mornings he played the organ at John Wesley United Methodist Church.
At Tufts University he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity and inspired the founding of the singing group the Grieblefritzers for whom he served as the rehearsal pianist. He graduated magna cum laude from Tufts in 1960 and attended Tufts University School of Medicine, graduating in 1964.
After completing his medical internship at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, he went on to flight school in Pensacola, Florida. As a flight surgeon in the US Navy, he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, and attached to Carrier Anti-Submarine Air Group 56. He treated 104 patients in one day at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, and subsequently developed an interest in pathology.
Dr. O’Connell left the Navy in 1969 and he and his wife and young daughter settled in Richmond, where he completed his residency in pathology at the Medical College of Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University). Their second daughter was born in 1972, and the family moved to Newport News the next year when Dr. O’Connell accepted a job as pathologist at Hampton General Hospital; he remained for 30 years. During his time at the community hospital in Hampton, Virginia, he was instrumental in the implementation of computer systems at the facility.
For recreation he sailed on the James River; took his family on ski trips in Virginia, New England and out West; and accompanied his daughters to the roller rink. He later cultivated an appreciation for tennis.
Summers were spent on Cape Cod, and when Dr. O’Connell retired in 2002, he and his wife moved full-time to what had been their summer home in Woods Hole, soon to be joined by their adult children.
During his retirement he indulged his loves of classical music and high-fidelity audio equipment; often strolled through the neighborhood; spent many hours reading books—especially history and historical novels—and news and medical journals on his iPad; and corresponded with friends via e-mail.
After receiving the Parkinson’s diagnosis 10 years ago he worked hard to stay healthy and active, exercising at the Falmouth Sports Center two hours a day, taking walks with his daughters as much as his body would allow, and finally participating in physical therapy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Sandwich. After breaking his hip in March, the staff at JML cared for him first as a rehab patient and eventually as a hospice patient.
In addition to his wife, he leaves their daughters, Irene O’Connell and Katherine O’Connell, both of Woods Hole; his niece and nephews Patricia O’Connell, Christopher O’Connell, Timothy O’Connell and James O’Connell and their families; and other extended family.
His brother, Harold Robert O’Connell, predeceased him.
A memorial gathering will be planned for a later date.