Friday, May 13, 2011

Tinley Park Police Chief Michael J. O'Connell dies from complications from heart surgery

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Tinley Park Police Chief Michael O'Connell was all heart. He was someone who really cared about people not just in his community of Tinley Park but in the surrounding community. He was a class act, and there are only a few others like him, including Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy.

O'Connell, 60, died on Wednesday morning reportedly as the result of complications from heart surgery.

His death is a monumental tragedy for Tinley Park, the suburban region and for police as a profession.

I knew him well. The man was genuine, and always so concerned. He played by the book but he also had so much common sense.

I can relate to his experience, too. I had heart surgery last December. I remember laying down on the very narrow marble slab in the operating room at Christ Hospital as the surgeons spoke to me as they put me under with anesthesia. My mind was racing, wondering if I was going to "wake up." I don't know exactly what happened to Chief O'Connell during his surgery at Ingalls Hospital, but I can imagine the concern he would have had about that very same experience. They put you under. They begin the heart surgery. And with an operation on your heart, you can never know what might happen.

I woke up. The nearly seven hours of surgery felt like minutes to me. No dreams. All black. Almost instantaneous but a lifetime to my family who waited outside the operating room and lived every minute of the surgery with apprehension.

O'Connell's death is a major tragedy. Our condolences go out to his family and to the Village of Tinley Park and to Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, who is one of the region's best mayors.

O'Connell had been on leave for nearly one month due to undisclosed health issues. He sent me an email in December when he heard I had heart surgery myself. Always thinking about other people.

O'Connell began his career as police officer in Riverdale in 1972 and later became the police chief there. He joined the Tinley Park Police Department in 1995.

A visitation is scheduled from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 16600 S. Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, May 16, at St. Stephen Deacon and Martyr Church, 17500 84th Ave., Tinley Park. The family has requested privacy during their time of grieving. In lieu of flowers, donations are appreciated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105. To donate by telephone, call 1-800-805-5856. Chief O’Connell is survived by his wife, Barb, his daughter, Colleen; son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Liz; daughter, Michelle (Anichini), and son-in-law, Paul; and four grandchildren

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