Former Fenwick HS Principal James J. O’Connor was leader during school’s boom years

Former Fenwick High School Principal James J. O’Connor’s legacy of leading the Middletown high school during its boom years of the late 1960s and early 1970s also helped to guide the school’s modern-day success.

The Rev. O’Connor, who died May 4 at the St. Charles Center in Celina, Ohio, was instrumental in shepherding the Catholic Middletown school through some of its most transformational years, said Fenwick school officials.

O’Connor, who was 93 and a resident of Celina, was principal of Fenwick from 1967 to 1974.

Blane Collison, current principal of Fenwick High School, said O’Connor had last visited the newer campus, which is on the eastern border of Middletown in Warren County, in 2010 but had been a regular financial donor to the school.

In 2004, the high school opened its current 66-acre campus at 4855 Ohio 122 in Franklin Twp.

“He came in a time when the school was really in a phase of growth,” said Collison referring to Fenwick’s former school and campus on Manchester Road in Middletown.

“A lot of what he did helped grow the school in terms of enrollment and families’ involvement in the school. He was instrumental in that,” he said.

In 1967 he was also appointed administrator of St. Peter Claver Parish, Middletown.

When St. Peter Claver Parish closed in 1969, Father O’Connor was appointed, on July 14, 1969, as assistant at St. John Parish, Middletown, and to continue as principal at Fenwick.

On June 17, 1971, he was appointed assistant at Holy Trinity Parish, Middletown and to continue as principal at Fenwick. And on June 15, 1972, he was appointed assistant at St. Mary Parish, Middletown while also remaining principal at Fenwick.

On June 20, 1973, he was appointed to return as assistant to Holy Trinity Parish, Middletown and to continue at Fenwick. Father O’Connor was appointed pastor of Holy Angels, Sidney, on June 19, 1974

O’Connor’s niece Karen Miller of Cincinnati said among all her uncle’s long career in Catholic schools and churches, Fenwick was one of his fondest leadership positions.

“He really enjoyed Fenwick High School and he also thought it was special to be working with teenagers,” said Miller.

He was a forceful personality, well-organized in his execution of his principal duties and a man whom people paid attention to when he spoke, said Miller.

“He was good at getting his message across but he was a giving, wonderful person, who always was doing something for somebody.”

O’Connor, a Chaplin and former teacher, was also a principal at two other Catholic high schools.

“Everywhere he went, people just adored him,” she said.

Rev. James is survived by his one sister and two brothers Marie (Edward- deceased) Mahoney of Cincinnati, Ohio; Stephen (Mary Carol) O’Connor of Cincinnati, Ohio; Robert (JoAnne) O’Connor of Longwood, Florida along with thirty-three nieces and nephews, and seventy-one great nieces and nephews.

Rev. James was preceded in death by both his parents, and five siblings Martha Jane Muchmore, Sister Anne O’Connor, Mary Ellen Bolan, and Francis and William O’Connor.

Services are today (Sat. 5/14) at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Sidney, Ohio. Visitation will be held at Holy Angels from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. followed by Mass of the Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m.

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