Eugene Francis O'Conor, chemist, dies

He was a member of the Maryland Squash Hall of Fame

  • Gene O'Conor
Gene O'Conor (Baltimore Sun file photo )
April 14, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Eugene Francis O'Conor, a retired chemist and scientist who was a member of the Maryland Squash Hall of Fame, died Monday of kidney failure at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 87.

Mr. O'Conor was born in Baltimore and raised in Guilford and Annapolis, the son of Herbert Romulus and Eugenia Byrnes O'Conor.

His father had been Maryland attorney general and governor from 1939 to 1947, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Senator O'Conor, later a Baltimore lawyer, died in 1960.

While attending Loyola High School, Mr. O'Conor was an outstanding football, basketball and tennis player.

"Gene was a stellar athlete all of his life," said his brother, James P. O'Conor of Lutherville, a founder of realty firm O'Conor, Piper & Flynn. "He even had been approached by the Pittsburgh Steelers to play football as a running back. He was fast and talented."

After graduating from Loyola High School in 1942, his career at Loyola College was interrupted when he enlisted in the Navy in 1943. He served as a commissioned officer in the Atlantic until the end of World War II in 1945.

He returned to Loyola, where he continued playing basketball and tennis. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1948.

"Not only was he a good athlete, but he was one of my best friends since the age of 10 or 12," said Jim Lacy, who was the nation's leading collegiate basketball scorer during his four years at Loyola from 1946 to 1950.

"Gene was as good an all-around athlete as I ever knew or played against in high school or college. He did it all and was a fierce competitor," said Mr. Lacy.

After briefly working for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., Mr. O'Conor went to work in the early 1950s as a chemist for the old Pemco International, manufacturers of porcelain enamel coatings for kitchen and bathroom appliances, barbecue grills and floor tiles, at its Eastern Avenue facility in East Baltimore.

While working at Pemco, Mr. O'Conor held patents for discovering Plazagraph, a leadless red glaze, and for glazes that were used in the manufacture of Corningware.

Mr. O'Conor retired in 1999.

A lifelong squash player, Mr. O'Conor, who was twice national seniors doubles champion in the 1970s and 1980s, was inducted into the Maryland Squash Hall of Fame in 1999.

Mr. O'Conor's first wife, the former Joy Leonard, died in 1969.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday in the chapel at Stella Maris Hospice, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, Timonium.

Also surviving are three daughters, Sharon O'Conor Bantelon of Gaithersburg, Amy Jean Toleson of Catonsville and Katie Jean O'Conor of New York City; and four grandchildren. His marriage to the former Diane Jean White ended in divorce.

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