Richard O’Connor died at The Oaks in Savannah on September 3, 2020.
Born April 1, 1941 and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, he graduated from Madison West High School. Attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he changed his initial major of Electrical Engineering to Physics, graduating in 1964. With research in Radiation Physics occupying his early medical school years, he received his M.D. from Wisconsin in 1967. Dr. O’Connor completed his Pediatrics Internship and Residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1970, and joined the U.S. Army Medical Corp, serving for two years as a pediatrician to army families at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Attaining the rank of Major, he then served two years in the Wisconsin National Guard.
Following certification by the American Board of Pediatrics, from 1972 through 1986, Richard was a busy Pediatrician with the Wausau Medical Center, a multispecialty group practice in northern Wisconsin. Concurrently, he actively participated on the committees and board of a very successful non-gatekeeper IPA-HMO. While in practice, Dr. O'Connor was made Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and was Chair of Pediatrics at Wausau Hospital.
In 1987 he began a medical management career as the lead medical director for Physicians Health Services (PHS), a greater NYC area IPA-HMO headquartered in Trumbull, CT. Made a Diplomat of the American Board of Medical Management in 1995, he then went to work for United Healthcare as a Sr. Medical Director in South Carolina, and then in Manhattan. Moving to Skidaway Island, Savannah, Georgia in 2002, he ran R.O’Connor Consulting, Inc., until retiring in 2007. He and his wife, Sheila, resided at The Landings for sixteen years before moving to The Marshes in 2018.
Retirement afforded him many deeply satisfying volunteer experiences, ranging from working with the Mediation Center in Savannah, to a trip supervising UW medical students at outreach clinics in the mountains of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. From 2007-2013, he was the President of the Board of Directors of Voice of Children Ministries, Inc., which provided funds for the education and care of needy children in the Igbo states of Nigeria. He was grateful for a trip to Nigeria with Fr. Chidi Osondu, witnessing firsthand the organization’s valuable work. He was an active parishioner at St. James the Less Catholic Church.
He is survived by his wife of 27+ years, Sheila O’Neill Smith, and his stepchildren: Mark Smith of Littleton, CO, Julia Smith Gagliardi of Fairfield, CT, and Francis Smith of NYC & Washington, DC; his step-grandchildren Zachary Smith (father of Isaac Oliver Smith) and Lila Marie Gagliardi. His two younger sisters, Ellen Van Horn of Wauwatosa, WI and Mari Elliott of Ithaca, NY also survive him, as do his five nieces & nephews and six grand nieces & nephews.
In lieu of flowers please send donations to The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire.
Richard was one of the nicest people we've ever met!
- Ruth and Tom McMullin, Savannah, GA
So sorry to hear about Richard's passing. I so enjoyed talking to him. He made you think ! Such a wonderful man.
- Tom Broderick, Savannah, GA
Sorry for your loss from all of us at The Mediation Center. Very thankful to Mr. O'Connor's contribution to our mission.
- Jill Cheeks, SAVANNAH, Georgia
Dear Sheila, You are in my prayers as well as the entire family. Richard was a very kind and intelligent man. He truly cared about people and he had a strong faith. May the Lord grant him peace.
- Fr. Mark Ross, Augusta, GA
Sheila, we just got back in town and I was saddened to hear of Richard’s death. Our deepest sympathy on your loss. Prayers and peace for you.
- Catherine Inglesby, Savannah, GA
Our deepest condolences to Richard's family. We will always remember him as the most generous source of help on any kind of a problem and his vast knowledge on contemporary issues and historical facts.
- Robert & Sandra Paredi, Savannah, GA
Sheila Chris & I we’re sorry to hear of the passing of Richard. We are holding you in our hearts!
- Robyn Matthews, Savannah, gA
I just heard of Richard’s passing from the latest alumni magazine from nervous Wisconsin Richard was a mentor of mine when I did a rotation up in Wausau in medical school and was my sponsor when I graduated from the worst Wisconsin 1976 he was very helpful in my career going on to train at Johns Hopkins in as a career IL as a cardiologist. What a great man quite a mentor I still remember things he told me while I was there in medical school he will be missed
- Richard HeuserMD , Phoenix , Arizona