William Julian “Bill” O’Connor was born to the late Frank O’Connor and Gertrude Mary (Zabrocki) on September 22, 1953, in Livingston, MT. Bill passed away at the age of 66 on April 27, 2020, at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital in Bozeman, MT, after contracting the coronavirus.
Bill graduated from Park High School in Livingston, and thereafter attended U of M Western in Dillon, MT. He held a Bachelor of Elementary Education and a minor in music. Bill began his teaching career at East Side School in 1975. He spent the next 36 years cultivating life-long relationships with students that he taught, coached, or refereed in various school sports. Whether standing in front of a classroom, directing exchange programs oversees, or leading Boy Scouts, Bill demonstrated a selfless desire to encourage and inspire his students, and his colleagues, to be the best versions of themselves. A former student said of Bill, “he taught me more than just math and reading; He taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin.”
A tirelessly hard worker, Bill lent himself to various jobs alongside teaching including, Managing Luccock Park Church Camp and supervising the maintenance and paint crew for Livingston School district. Even after his “retirement” from teaching, Bill continued to work full-time in Bozeman. His most recent employment being at Thrifty Supply/Blacks Wholesale, where he was employed at the time of his death.
However, Bill would tell you that the most important role he ever played was that of a family man. Bill was raised Catholic alongside four sisters and three brothers. While married to his first wife, they had a son, Ian. Upon his second marriage, Bill had four more children: Megan, Lauren, Katlyn, and Zach. The family chose to home-school in Livingston until their future move to Bozeman. Bill shared with his kids his passion and hobbies for music, photography, and train collections. Bill’s daughter Katie recalls the many train shows that she and her dad visited. Bill loved collecting and repairing antique toys and Lionel trains from his boyhood. He had in his home model train layouts that ran around tiny villages for his grandson, Kosmo, and granddaughter, Kyra, to play with when they came to visit.
Bill also became a surrogate dad to Jessica Payne, the daughter of former wrestler and Livingston native, Byron Payne. For the past three years he opened his home and heart to her as she traveled to and from Baton Rouge for school. When he married Donna, the new family was complete.
Bill O’Connor could have a conservation with anyone. “Anywhere we went, he would talk to anybody,” his daughter, Katie, reminisced. And that was because Bill had a contagious joy and passion for life that shined through his infectious smile and laugh. Bill’s mind functioned a lot like a general warehouse, storing a wealth of information about people he met and cared about and places he visited and found interesting.
Bill instilled in his five children his love for adventure. As a child, Ian, remembers that he used to lament the fact that with Bill, “there was never a quick trip.” “He didn’t believe in merely getting from point A to point B.” As an adult, Ian says that he is much more appreciative of his father’s ability to “look at the old in new ways…even if it did take several hours longer.”
On their frequent weekend episodes of “adventures with Bill and Donna,” Donna, whom Bill married in March 2019 (his lady-bug, as he called her) said that he “loved to wander and to take the scenic routes.” Before Bill passed, he began teaching Donna about one of his favorite hobbies on their trips: photography. Donna remembers Bill as “always being in teaching mode,” and “always opening and closing the truck door for her.” A true gentleman.
Although they had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary, Bill and Donna shared a pure and unconditional love that radiated between them like two lovestruck teenagers. It is that type of love lends credence to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s belief: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Bill was preceded in death by his parents, brothers, Donald Maurice O’Connor and Gregory Francis O’Connor, and great nephew Nicholas P. O’Connor.
Bill is survived by his wife, Donna; children, Ian Matthew (Iyanda) O’Connor, Megan O’Connor, Lauren (Daniel) Webb, Katlyn (Adrian) Casados, Issac O’Connor; grandchildren, Liam, Kosmo, Kyra, Olivia, thirteen step-grandchildren, and five step-great-grandchildren; sisters, Mary Ann (Larry) Bizjack, June A O'Connor, Katherine O'Connor (Jack Swanson), Margaret “Peggy” O'Connor (Mike Tate), and several nieces and nephews.
The family is preparing a memorial for Bill in July. There will be an announcement for an exact date and location posted on the Facebook “This is Livingston Community Page.”
Condolences & memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.