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Monday, June 24, 2024

James Norbert O’Connor

James Norbert O'Connor
James Norbert O’Connor

Mr. James Norbert O’Connor, age 83, of Ocala, FL (originally from Hollidaysburg, PA), passed away peacefully at the E.W. & Lucille Cates House in Ocala. He was born in Altoona, PA on May 29, 1940 and was the son of Norbert and Hilda (Fochler) O’Connor.

Jim was a 1958 graduate of Hollidaysburg High School where he was an accomplished drummer in the school band. This accomplishment led to his membership in the Gardner Guards, a nationally renowned marching and maneuvering drum corps based in Tyrone, PA. In addition to drumming, during his youth, Jim also learned the basics of radio technology under the tutelage of his father Norbert. This knowledge, and his intuitive understanding of radio wave propagation, greatly shaped his future.

Following high school, Jim attended the Pennsylvania State University for one year. He then joined the U.S. Army and became an expert in specialized radio communications. Jim served honorably in the western Pacific, first in Okinawa and then in Vietnam during the early stages of the war where he supported the conduct of psychological operations to demoralize the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. While in Vietnam, Jim was recognized for his expertise in radio wave propagation and was recruited, tested and hand-picked for service as an electrical engineer at the Naval Research Lab (NRL) in Washington, D.C. His primary duties involved designing cutting edge spacecraft, payloads and supporting global infrastructure for U.S. spy satellites. His work evolved in the 1970s for support of a new, and at that time, clandestine government agency — the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

From the mid-1960s until his retirement in 1999, Jim was a pioneer in the world of collection of radio signals from space. Most of the specifics of his work were, and remain, highly classified. However, even today, Jim’s successors at NRL and NRO still study and employ the principles of his groundbreaking work. For his service to the nation, at his retirement, Jim was presented with the NRO’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Service.

When Jim wasn’t busy protecting the nation, he was raising his two daughters, managing and pitching for his own fast-pitch softball team (the “Green Machine”) and playing golf.

Jim married Carmen (Carmencita) Marta Rodriguez, on March 9, 1996 at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C. Following his retirement, Jim and Carmencita re-settled to Dunnellon, FL, where Jim continued his lifelong quest for the perfect golf swing. He was an active member of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, FL.

Jim was a loving husband, father, brother, son and uncle. He is survived by his wife Carmencita; two daughters Patricia and husband Raymon Hamzikdhan of Maryland; Jennifer and husband Michael Linov of Canada; brother Dennis and wife Holly O’Connor of Hollidaysburg, PA, and; many nieces and nephews including Goddaughter, Dr. Mary Hensler Michelsen of Encinitas, CA. He was preceded in death by his parents, Norbert and Hilda O’Connor and a sister, Jeanne O’Connor Hensler.