Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service

Thomas O'Connor

September 1, 1940 ~ May 02, 2019

Thomas R. O'Connor died Thursday, May 2, 2019 in Bozeman. He was born September 1, 1940, in Butte, Montana. His childhood was spent in Butte and Miles City, Montana, before moving to Australia with his parents and younger brother.  He returned to Montana in 1958 for a visit with his grandparents.  Upon passing the GED he decided not to return to Australia and entered Montana State College in the fall.  
He received his draft notice in the fall of 1962 and after a visit to the Scoop with friends where he met a Navy recruiter, he enlisted in the Navy. His choice of the Navy allowed him to finish his BS degree in engineering from Montana State College in June 1963.  He married Celia Smith the day after graduation.

After spending the summer working construction in Oregon, he headed to officer training in Pensacola, Florida.  That led to 26 years as a Naval Officer, retiring in 1989 as a Captain. His highest military award was the Legion of Merit.  He then spent the next few years with aircraft maintenance firms in Florida, Alabama, and Texas.

In 1997, Tom and Celia returned to Bozeman to retire.  He soon became active as an   alumnus with the Sigma Nu fraternity.  In 2001 and 2007 he worked to organize the airshows, including the Blue Angels, at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. 

In 2007, he helped with the organization of Warriors and Quiet Waters to bring wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan to Montana for fly fishing and rehabilitation.  He was also very active with the local Kiwanis group, serving as president.  He was awarded the Walter Zeller Fellowship from Kiwanis International. In 2010 he and Celia received the Blue and Gold Award from Montana State University.

Tom and Celia have spent much of the last 22 years traveling the world, including six trips to Kenya, two to Galapagos, Norway, China, Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Guinea, and even the Arctic and Antarctica.

In addition to his wife Celia, Tom is survived by two sons, Sean and Brian.  Sean lives in Virginia with his wife, Mindi, and their son, Nicholas, and daughter, Katie.  Brian lives in Bozeman with his wife, Brenda, and daughters, Sydney and Molly.  He is also survived by his brother, Bill, and his wife in Denver and their four children.

Memorials may be sent to the Montana State University Foundation, the Bozeman Health Foundation, or the Ellen Theatre. 

An open house reception for friends and relatives will be held on Saturday, May 11, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm at the Norm Asbjornson Hall Inspiration Room on the Montana State University campus.