James Britt (Jim) O’Connell was born on 7 September 1961 in Wahiawa, Hawaii, the son of James T. O’Connell, Jr and Pauline Britt O’Connell. His early years living and going to school at various Army posts were happy and eventful. He was always an accomplished student thriving on the activities and sports that were available. At an early age, he became an excellent swimmer and water-based activities became and continued to be an important part of his life. His four years at Fort Leavenworth, KS enabled him to excel in youth football, basketball, and especially baseball, as an All Star third baseman and catcher leading his team to the state tournament at Fort Riley, KS.
The following year, he found himself boarding at Lord Wandsworth College in Long Sutton, Hampshire, England facing a set of diverse challenges in the classroom and on the athletic fields. Demonstrating his incredible ability to succeed both as a top student and competitive player on both a rugby pitch, and a tennis court. His two years living in England had a huge impact on him and honed his determined approach to succeed in his every endeavor. Returning to the United States, he graduated from George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia and the University of Virginia in 1983 as a Software Engineer. He made lifelong friends in high school and college, especially his Sigma Nu fraternity brothers. Jim was well prepared for an exciting professional career in the quickly evolving software engineering field.
His professional career was also very commendable. Initially, a software engineer with Westinghouse in Hunt Valley, MD, he soon returned to Charlottesville to work for Sperry-Marine. During this time, a growing entrepreneurial spirit emerged leading him to found Stairway Software, the developer of Screen Extender, a spreadsheet subroutine for WordPerfect. He relocated his company to Virginia Beach in 1990 where he lived for many years. After closing Stairway Software, he led the development of Regent University’s highly acclaimed implementation of Distance Learning as the Program Manager and system architect. He was subsequently recruited by IBM where he was a successful Program Manager and Customer Advocate. Throughout this period, he maintained his affinity for sports by becoming an avid golfer and skiing enthusiast. In January 2023, he was able to realize the top item on his bucket list, skiing a full season in Colorado. Based in Frisco, he skied all the major resorts and slopes over a three-month period. He was very proud and grateful for that adventure; great fun and an opportunity to see old friends and enjoy the winter ambience.
After his successful professional career, he retired to Jaco, Costa Rica in 2016 and rekindled his love for the ocean becoming an accomplished surfer. He returned home frequently over the past seven years. What memorable times we had with him, especially during the more than 40 years of family vacations at the Outer Banks and attendance at other family events. While in the US visiting his parents in July, Jim was diagnosed with incurable cancer. After a courageous and optimistic battle for two months, Jim passed away on September 14, 2023.
Jim is survived by his loving parents, Jim and Pauline O’Connell of Williamsburg, Virginia, his two sisters, Malia Flatt (Neal) and Sara Somerville (Luke), both of Midlothian, Virginia, nieces and nephews, Corey Flatt (Cory Thompson), Ian Flatt, Jesse Flatt Spigner (Josh), Jordan Somerville, Eric Somerville and Andrew Somerville, as well as an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, all of whom meant the world to him. Jim was incredibly outgoing and friendly, embracing life by engaging with family, friends, and strangers alike. He was cherished by his family and many friends and will be sorely missed every day. Pura Vida!
A Funeral Mass, followed by a Celebration of Life reception at Kaplan Parish Hall, will be held at St. Bede Catholic Church, 3686 Ironbound Road Williamsburg VA 23188 on Saturday, 14 October 2023 at 12 O’clock noon. Family members will be available for visitation at 11:00 in the church. Donations in his memory may be made to the Southeastern Virginia Golden Retriever Rescue Education and Training (SEVAGRREAT), PO Box 8014, Yorktown, VA 23693. (www.adoptagolden.com)
Saint Bede Catholic Church - Directions
3686 Ironbound Road
Williamsburg, VA 23188
- Saturday, October 14, 2023
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM