Gregg County Special Olympics founder passes away

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Morgan Chesky - bio | email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - He is being remembered as a man who almost single handedly created the special Olympics in Gregg County which has enriched the lives of thousands of families. Longview native Charles 'Chick' O'Connor passed away Thursday after a long battle with cancer. Many knew him as the man who started the Gregg County Special Olympics in 1968.

"It was for the kids,"says Chick's son Darryl O'Connor. "It didn't matter the color, how handicapped they were, if they could swim, if they couldn't swim, he would work with them for hours to give them that opportunity, it was phenomenally important to him"

His inspiration for the special Olympics was his daughter Monica, who became a champion special Olympian swimmer.

"He said you can do anything if you put your mind to it," said daughter Monica. "Sometimes I wanted to quit because swimming's was getting so hard for me, and he'd say don't be a quitter and I said O-K daddy I'll do it for you, he said he was proud of me , I did it because I loved my daddy and I'm glad he was my coach."

O'Connor also worked tirelessly with the athletes. "He would work night shift and come off night and go coach the kids for hours at the pool and come home and rest and go back to work, but it was a passion," says son Shawn O'Connor.

"Once he got started in it, his whole heart opened up and it became a part of him, I think it was just total joy for him," says Darryl.

And the man who gave so much, leaves behind memories his family will always cherish. "If I can just be a piece of the man that he was I'll be successful," Shawn says. "I wish everybody would have a dad like mine," says Monica.

O'Connor will be laid to rest Monday at 10 a.m. at Saint Anthony's Catholic Church in Longview. He was 90 years old. Monica is having one of her special Olympics gold medals buried with her father.

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