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Long-time sheepman Jack O’Connor dies
  by LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 11/8/13


   H&N Regional Editor
     Longtime Klamath Basin rancher Jack “Jackie” Matthew O’Connor, who died last month, was a link to an era when sheep dominated the range.

   O’Connor, 88, died Oct. 30. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m., Nov. 16, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Rosary will be 6 p.m., Nov. 15, at Ward’s Klamath Funeral Home.

   A lifelong Klamath Basin resident, O’Connor was a sheep and cattle rancher. At one time the family’s O’Connor Livestock Company had more than 15,000 breeding ewes on holdings in Oregon and California. Oregon Institute of Technology and the Sky Lakes Medical Center were built on former O’Connor grazing lands.  

   “Sheep were a good business for a long time,” O’Connor said in a 2004 interview. “In the early days you couldn’t drive across the country without seeing bands of sheep, some in pastures, some being trailed to town from the ranges.”  

   In the early 1900s, it is estimated Lake County had upwards of 350,000 sheep, Klamath County had 160,000 and Modoc County had about 60,000. O’Connor’s father, John D., left County Kerry, Ireland for Lake County in 1911. After working for another Irishman, he developed his own herd and, in 1918, bought a 160-acre ranch south of Klamath Falls at Spring Lake.

   During that era, O’Connor said, “You could see lambs playing in the fields along the highway when the sun was out.   Sheep were a big industry … Several thousand people depended on sheep for their livelihood, from employment to selling the needs of the sheep industry. Not many of us are alive today to remember.”

   With the decline of the sheep industry, O’Connor Livestock gradually transformed from sheep to cattle. By 1975, when prices for wool and lamb significantly declined, the sheep operation was ended.

   O’Connor, who was born June 25, 1925, at the Klamath Valley Hospital,   was the youngest of John D. and Violette Matney O’Connor’s four children. He graduated from Sacred Heart Academy.

   He married Theresa Taucher of Maxwell, Calif., and they had five children. Theresa died in 1982. A year later, he married Muriel, who survives.

   O’Connor was involved in the Knights of Columbus, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and other community organization. He also enjoyed golfing and traveled around the world, but many remember him as a defender of sheep and the sheep industry. He believed grazing sheep benefited forests and wildlife, calling them “groomers of the forest … Animals weren’t put on this land to be locked up and looked at. They have a job   to do.”

   O’Connor regarded sheep with reverence, insisting, “I think they’re a sacred animal. One time a cattleman friend of mine was giving me a hard time about sheep. I told him I’ve never seen a picture of God holding a calf.”



John O’Connor
     John “Jack” Matthew O’Connor, 88, a lifelong Klamath Falls resident, passed away Oct. 30, 2013, in Klamath Falls.

   Jack was born June 25, 1925, to John and Violet (Matney) O’Connor in Klamath Falls.

   He graduated from the former Sacred Heart Academy and was a longtime cattle and sheep rancher. Jack was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and belonged to the Knights of Columbus and the National Farmers Organization.  

   He enjoyed golfing, traveled around the world and was very involved with the local community and various organizations.

   He is survived by his wife Muriel O’Connor; sons and daughters-inlaw Jerry and Colleen O’Connor and Tim and Dana O’Connor; daughters   and sons-in-law Judy and Jim Nuccio, Suzie and Mike McVay and Tina and Chris Burr; grandchildren, Cindy Dye, Katie Nuccio, Chris Nuccio, Sean O’Connor, Erin Blair, Nora O’Connor, Kaaren Harless, Tara Guthrie, Theresa O’Connor, Tim Burr, Anna Hawkins, Mandy Gable and John McVay; sister and brother-in-law Mary and Neil Hurley; and numerous great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

   Jack was preceded in death by his first wife, Theresa K. O’Connor, in June 1982.  

   Memorial contributions in Jack’s memory may be sent to Advocates for Sustainable Animal Populations, 4716 Driftwood Drive, Klamath Falls, OR 97603.

   A service in Jack’s memory will be at 11 a.m. Nov. 16, in Sacred Heart Catholic Church with a rosary at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Ward’s Klamath   Funeral Home.

   Please sign the online guest book at  www.heraldandnews.com/obituaries  .



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