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1941 John 2022

John O'Donnell

October 20, 1941 — July 20, 2022

October 20, 1941 – July 20, 2022 John Patrick O’Donnell was born in Neptune, New Jersey to Gertrude June Winters and John Patrick O’Donnell Sr. Four younger siblings; James Michael O’Donnell (Mike), Gary Ridgway, Trudy Ridgway Kemp, and Douglas Ridgway, followed over the years. His mother June and his stepfather Warren Ridgway raised the family in West Belmar, New Jersey. John attended West Belmar Elementary School where, in a portent of future accomplishments, he attended one day of kindergarten and was immediately promoted to first grade. He began his lifelong passion for golf when he became a caddy at age ten; caddying all through his school years. John graduated from Manasquan High School in 1959 at age 17, shortly thereafter enlisting in the Navy at age 18. While stationed in England, he met and married Kathleen (Kay) Williams. They had three children born in upstate New York; John Patrick (deceased), Jeanette (Jenny) Auman, and David. John later served on the USS North Hampton, a ship that patrolled the Caribbean during the Cuban Crisis in 1962. Not finding his shipboard duties sufficiently challenging, John studied for and took his college SATs aboard the North Hampton, enabling him to attend Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) after his discharge from the Navy. He graduated in 1967 with a BS in Physics. Monmouth University honored him with its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012. Joining Sylvania/GTE in Seneca Falls, New York after graduation, he worked as a research and development engineer in commercial color television tubes from 1967 to 1981, earning a patent and a number of proprietary awards for his innovative work. After a second marriage and two more sons; Michael and Matthew, John relocated to Phoenix, Arizona for a more challenging position with Sperry Flight Systems as principal engineer working on the cockpit display for the F-16 aircraft – and, happily, the ability to play golf year-round. In 1983 romantic lightning struck when John moved to southern California to take a position as CRT/Components Engineering Manager for Conrac Corporation, where he met Karen, and they began the great love story of their lives. Together they relocated in 1986 to Tucson, Arizona where he took a position as assistant chief engineer for Southwest Vacuum Devices so he would be near his boys. Ever the true romantics, they were married at sunset on Valentine's Day, 1987 at – where else? – a golf course. With the marriage he also gained a stepson, Rick Russ. Turning down a transfer to Atlanta, Georgia in 1989 which would again separate him from his sons, John took a “temporary” consultant position at Honeywell Business and Commuter Aviation in Phoenix – which lasted nine and a half years, becoming a permanent staff engineer position in January 1999, until he went on permanent disability/retirement in 2005. John loved sports. He was an enthusiastic spectator of football, baseball, basketball and golf especially. He participated in darts, bowling, softball, pick-up basketball and, of course, golf. His enthusiasm was infectious, and he was incredibly excited during big games. His humor was dry and quick witted, even in – or perhaps, especially in – difficult situations. He was especially fond of puns and always looked for an opportunity to make someone laugh, and to laugh himself. He loved beer, ice cream and golf (not necessarily at the same time). He had favorite stories that he loved to tell and loved having Karen tell them for him when he no longer could. John enjoyed people and had a way of making each person he met feel valued. Despite usually being the smartest person in the room, he was unassuming, kind, considerate and always grateful for everything anyone did for him. In 1993, life changed for John when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. John continued to work as an engineer and consultant for 12 years and played as much golf as possible for at least another 20 years. John had always wanted a hole in one, and after his diagnosis he had not one, but four. John took part in support groups, tai chi classes, art workshops, music therapy classes, exercise classes, dance classes, physical and occupational therapy and many other activities that helped him deal with his Parkinson’s Disease. He became a vital part of the PD community and was admired for his positive attitude and his ability to make the best of his life even when things became more difficult. He helped raise awareness at every opportunity, through public relations for the organizations he valued, such as the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, Hospice of the Valley, and Duet, partners in health and aging; and interviews with numerous newspapers, magazines, local and national television and social media platforms. Over the years, he helped organize golf tournaments to raise funds for the Muhammad Ali Center, and also helped with fundraisers and numerous events for Duet. John also participated in research studies to help find treatment for Parkinson’s Disease and prostate cancer. For an unprecedented 29 years John fought a courageous battle against Parkinson’s Disease, aided every step of the way by Karen’s unwavering and determined support. Together they maintained as much quality of life as anyone possibly could – more than many thought possible. In 1993 another much happier journey also began, with the birth of his first grandchild, Tanner Russ; eventually followed by six more; Stephanie Russ, Aislynn O’Donnell, Samantha and Eric Auman, and Keegan and Jaxson O’Donnell. John adored all his grandchildren and loved shopping for exactly the right gifts for them for Christmas and birthdays. John leaves behind his wife Karen, mother-in-law and father-in-law Dean and Howard Penn, and children; Rick Russ (Jody), Jenny (Todd) Auman, David, Matthew, Michael (Michelle Casey), seven grandchildren, and siblings, nieces and nephews. In addition to his son Mike, Gary and Candy Ridgway have been there for John and Karen as John’s health worsened. John’s best friend and golf buddy, Joe DeBernardis, has been a constant in his life since 1967. The family would also like to thank Karen Constantinides, Nelly Salazar, Mary Jones and Teresa Arzola for all their caring and dedicated help during his last difficult months and days. Hospice of the Valley also provided support John and Karen needed in this difficult time. Per John’s wishes, memorial contributions may be made to: School of Science, Monmouth University, 400 Cedar Avenue, West Long Branch, New Jersey 07764 or https://www.monmouth.edu/give. Simply enter “John O’Donnell and School of Science” in the designation field. You may also contribute to Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, Barrow Neurological Foundation, 240 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85013 or https://giveto.supportbarrow.org/donate Private family arrangements have been made.
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