Family and friends honor Marty O’Connor with Eastlake scholarship
January 31, 2013
When Marty O’Connor died unexpectedly of heart disease Nov. 9, the avid cyclist and skier not only left behind his wife of 31 years and four children, he also left an empty space on the sidelines of many Eastlake High School sporting events.
“He was always involved with everything…whether it was watching it or coaching or doing it himself,” Haley O’Connor said about her father.
While at Eastlake, she used to run both cross-country and track and remembers her father as a steady fixture at all of her races. That never changed, even after she graduated in 2010 and went on to run for Western Washington University.
“He went to everything. He always went to my track meets — even in college when I had a meet down in Oregon at Western Oregon,” she said. “My mom was working and my sister was in school, but he came down by himself to see me run the steeplechase.”
Haley O’Connor credits her dad for giving her the confidence to become a collegiate athlete. In his honor she, her siblings, mother and her father’s friends, have formed the Marty O’Connor Scholarship Fund for Eastlake athletes who want to pursue a higher education. The scholarship is specifically targeted at those who participate in basketball, like his son Corey O’Connor or track and cross county, like Haley O’Connor and her younger sister, Morgan O’Connor.
“With having four kids going through Eastlake, we always thought Eastlake prepared them really well,” said Deanne O’Connor, Haley’s mother. Helping other students fulfill their dream of running in college or playing on their University’s team is something, she added, she thinks her husband would have liked to have done.
“I think it’s just a fantastic thing. It is the perfect way to carry Marty’s sprit and passion,” said Eastlake cross-country coach Troy Anderson.“He’s a great man and that is very evident by the legacy that he has left behind with his family, and the impact that he left on our cross country program is definitely going to be carried on for the years to come.”
Anderson coached both Haley and Morgan O’Connor and remembers Marty O’Connor as a parent that went above and beyond, always volunteering at events and chaperoning team trips.
“His passion, not just for his kids, but for sports in general and understanding the value sports play in people’s lives was very evident. … He actually became basically a team consultant,” said Anderson. When Morgan O’Connor graduated last year, he explained that he was not just losing a dedicated runner. “I was really said to lose to Marty and Deanne as cross-country parents.”
Deanne O’Connor met her future husband on a blind date. Marty O’Connor was a junior studying civil engineering at St. Martins University, where he played on the basketball team. The two eventually became a family of six.
Aside from helping to coach both his son’s basketball team and his daughter Leah O’Connor’s junior high soccer team, Marty O’Connor stayed busy – whether it was training for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic or serving as a level 3 certified professional ski instructor.
“He was very passionate about everything he did. He put his heart and soul into everything. He was very humble. He cared about the kids he was coaching, really tried to connect with them,” said Leah O’Connor. “He was an amazing person and I am so grateful for the 26 years that he was my father. He is still my father.”
She said her father’s impact was evident in the weeks following his death. There was standing room only at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church during his memorial service Nov. 17 and nearly 100 runners and cyclists showed up Thanksgiving morning for the Marty O’Connor Turkey Trot & Tour. In that one week, his friends and family raised nearly $3,000 to get the scholarship off to a healthy start.
“He would be honored,” said Leah O’Connor. “I knew there would be a lot of people at his memorial. I did not expect it to be the extent that it was. It just made me realize how many people that he touched and how many people knew him and knew what an amazing person that he was.”
Donations to the Marty O’Connor Scholarship Fund can be made through the Eastlake High School PTSA. Checks should be made out to the EHS PTSA with the memo line “Marty O’Connor scholarship fund” and mailed to Deanne O’Connor at 23216 NE 21st PL, Sammamish, WA 98074.