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Barry O’Connor

Died: May 2, 2010

Denis Tippo remembers:

Big Barry and I were teammates on the freshman and varsity lacrosse teams (four years). His 6’5’ presence was formidable to opponents. Not fast of foot, Barry made up for it by intelligent play and aggressive poking-checking as a defenseman.

Staying at his parent’s home on Long Island, Barry and I had some fun weekends in the Big Apple. His keen wit and playful questioning made our urban excursions all the more interesting and memorable.

Timothy Bradford remembers:
In the fall of 1962 Barry and I passed in the stairwell of Welch Hall. As I walked to my room above, our first exchange was a terse, flippant comment from him. So with a wisecrack, a 50-year friendship was born.

At six feet, four, he was “Big Barry,” “the Bear,” or just “Bar.” At barely five eight, I was “Little Mac,” or later “Mouse,” so we were called the Mutt and Jeff of the Yale campus. We imitated Bill Bradley on the basketball court and mimicked James Bond at the bar; we made squash a contact sport, and for relaxation, we listened to Barry’s favorite Mahler symphonies.

After Yale we traveled through Europe and later journeyed to Africa together, the first of almost 30 wildlife trips Barry took over the years. This was no organized tour. We traveled alone in a Volkswagen minibus with a map, our cameras, and some film. We pursued the big game, searched for mountain gorillas, and hiked to the hotel amid the lions when our car broke down.

So what do I remember about Barry through those times together? Most of all, he made me think, and he made me laugh. His questions were provocative, insightful, unfiltered, sometimes blunt; his humor was concise, sharp, and sometimes crude. No vague generality on my part passed without a challenge or a counterpoint, and none of my idiosyncrasies escaped without a comment.

Often Barry, the lawyer, interrogated me, the defendant; and I loved it. Even later when Barry’s health was declining, we debated the condition of the world, and I laughed at his quick wit, his probing comments, his irreverence.

The memorial for Barry was just right, a celebratory cocktail reception, not a somber church affair. Noticeable was the range of people there — his brothers, of course, but also high school friends, Yale classmates, business associates, especially, those whom he had mentored, his neighbors, and his fishing buddies. Even now, those same people exchange email remembrances — the cursing when his fishing boat ran aground, his “unique alcoholic gifts” at holiday time, and the airport metal detectors announcing his multiple replacement joints.

I’ll conclude with a note of forgiveness. At Yale, Barry put my bike in a tree, and thus I was late for class. So to make amends, I say, “Barry, I forgive you.” More importantly, I say, “Barry, I’ll never forget you.”