Cover photo for Teresa W. O'Connell's Obituary
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1918 Teresa 2013

Teresa W. O'Connell

March 24, 1918 — January 31, 2013

Teresa Whitehead O’Connell, affectionately known as “Tess”, passed away at age 94 at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital on Thursday, January 31, 2013 after a short illness. Tess was born March 24, 1918, in Bozeman, Montana, to Eleanor (Flynn) Whitehead and Dr. Charles Edgar Whitehead, an eye, ear, nose and throat physician. She was the first of their four children and thoroughly enjoyed the role of being a big sister. She was a graduate of Holy Rosary Grade School and Gallatin County High School in Bozeman. Her schooling continued in California, where she graduated from San Francisco College for Women. Tess had taken dance lessons for many years, and one of her greatest joys during her college career was the choreography she did for various school productions. After graduation she returned to Montana where she pursued a career in social work, and had an office in the Big Timber Courthouse. She had fond memories of the families she worked with, and felt that part of her life was very rewarding. Tess then moved to Bozeman where she married Michael Joseph O’Connell Jr., whom she had known since they began the first grade together. Tess spent most of her married life in Bozeman, except for a period of 7 years when she and Mike moved their young family to Butte after he was appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney. When Mike decided to run for the office of State Attorney General, Tess became his most avid supporter, and was always at his side as they campaigned across the state. After returning to Bozeman so Mike could join a private law practice, they decided to add skiing to their list of activities. The entire family took lessons and became avid skiers, spending every weekend throughout the winters at their favorite ski area, Bridger Bowl. Tess’s family used to joke that during the week, she would put a casserole in the oven, head up to the ski hill for “a few runs”, and be home just in time for dinner. Tess’s other interests included her beloved bridge club of many years, and the dear and lasting friendships that resulted from their gatherings. She was also a member of Riverside Country Club and Valley View Golf Club, and enjoyed spending her summer months on the course. In addition Tess loved to travel. Her international adventures included a trip to South America and a Mediterranean cruise, both of which were a delight to her. In 1963 Tess had a brief brush with fame. Her neighbor, who worked in the Film and TV Department at MSU, recruited Tess for a role in the Disney film titled “Yellowstone Cubs”. She played the part of an angler who has an encounter with the cubs while fishing. The entire experience was great fun for her, although her rise to stardom never quite materialized. Tess was a lifelong member of Holy Rosary Parish and enjoyed her involvement in the Foresters as well as her participation as a Eucharistic Minister. In 2000 Tess moved into Hillcrest Retirement Community, and watched it transform into the newly constructed Aspen Pointe. She spent many happy years there, as well as at Birchwood, the assisted living facility. We thank the wonderful staff for the years of loving care that she received there. She was preceded in death by her husband, Michael O’Connell, Jr.; her parents, Eleanor and Dr. Charles E. Whitehead: her son, Kevin O’Connell, and her brothers, Donald and C.E. Whitehead. She is survived by her sister Connie Abinante; her son Michael (Ann) and their daughter Katie; her daughter Connie Despard (Bill) and their children, Jay Despard, Katie Despard Kelsey and Alisa Despard Egan. She has four great grandchildren as well: Grady Despard, Alma Louise Kelsey, and Brooks and Pierson Egan. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:00am at Holy Rosary Catholic Church followed by interment at Sunset Hills Cemetery. Memorials may be made in Tess’ name to Hospice of Southwest Montana c/o Bozeman Deaconess Foundation, 931 Highland Blvd., Suite 3200, Bozeman, MT 59715.

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Sunset Hills Cemetery

340 Golf Way, Bozeman, MT 59715

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