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Patrick O’Connell, 37

Jan. 23, 1981-July 7, 2018

Patrick O’Connell, 37, left us July 7 in Butte. Services will be held Saturday, July 14, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 1 p.m. A reception will follow at the Maroon Activity Center (MAC).

Patrick, the firstborn son to Dan and Kay O’Connell, came into this world on January 23, 1981. Father, husband, protecting brother, proud Marine, devoted friend, helpful son and brother-in-law. His laughing eyes shine on in our memories.

He attended Longfellow Elementary School in Butte and graduated from Butte High in 2000. He started his service as a young lifeguard as well as a volunteer firefighter. He fought in the fires of 2000. After that, he joined the Marine Corps. His military career was extensive, including being a designated marksman for the Marine Corps and serving two deployments to Iraq. Upon coming home, he continued to protect people in and out of the military. He then joined the Air Force National Guard in Great Falls and was a serviceman on Malmstrom Air Force Base. During that time, he graduated the top of his class, receiving awards in San Antonio at Lackland Air Force Base.

"On April 16, 2007, SSgt. Patrick J. O’Connell was selected as a Distinguished Graduate from the Security Force's Apprentice Course at the United States Air Force Security Forces Academy. SSgt O’Connell earned this recognition through his outstanding academic and performance achievement in all areas of the course. The academy staff wish to take this opportunity to inform you that he [Patrick] consistently demonstrated hard work and a 'can-do' attitude while performing in a rigorous and very demanding training environment.” 

He knew how to go big, or go home. He attended college, pursuing an education in geophysics and mechanics. He would leave at the crack of dawn to get to work and then attend classes during the day. He was devoted to his school work and managed to work full-time.

Patrick was always witty and quick to entice with his captivating stories. Ask Mac Coyne about Pat and his scuba diving expedition off Australia. Pat would have us all laughing until our faces hurt, and no matter how many times he told that story, it never got old. Patrick loved, lived and laughed like no other. He had an outgoing personality that affected us all. You wanted to have him around you, because you felt safe with him and thankful you were in his presence. He is known, and pulled for, by all the friends and people he came near. Whether it was hunting, fishing, socializing, boating, rock climbing, driving his vehicle or just getting out, Pat loved adventures. He loved to push the limits, especially with the 4x4 Off-Road Club. He was capable of exceeding limits.

Brought through life on a rough road, he grew from each of his difficult life lessons, always coming back with a smile and ready for the next challenge. He absolutely enjoyed living with and helping his monsters grow. As a natural protector, he adored his three beautiful children and nieces. They love him like no other. He was a big teddy bear for them. He loved playing with them, watching them play volleyball and wrestle, and playing video games beside his youngest; he was an awesome father. Anything new he learned, he passed on to his kids (teaching them about aquatic life, fish, geological info, different rocks, mechanics, etc.). His sense of humor, laugh and knack for trouble kept us all on our toes, and that adrenaline-seeking adventurous man will be greatly missed. He would drag us up the side of a mountain to seek out the last of the snow pack for the year just so he could blast through it with his souped up vehicle, listening to all the kids laugh and scream because they could not believe that he had just blown through a mountain of snow in the middle of summer.

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From the moment Patrick and Becca met, they had an undeniable connection. They were best friends and they often reminded each other that, though things were rough, they both knew they were soulmates and whatever happened in this lifetime, they would remain together, even after this life.

They were married on January 25, 2008, in Great Falls. Patrick and Becca could get lost on a country road, get stuck with no service and somehow find their way back just to do it again somewhere else, on a different road, enjoying every minute of it. This was their life. Facing challenge after challenge, on the road of life, only to get stuck with what seemed like no service or light at the end of the tunnel but only to find their way back, stronger.

We may never know why he chose to leave, but we do know that he left a void in everyone’s heart when he left. It is obvious by the outpouring of love on Facebook.

He is survived by his grandfather, Butch; parents, Dan and Kay; wife, Rebecca; three children, Irelynn, Rylan and Killian; his brother, Brenton; nieces, Tayla (Brenton), Lily, Snow and Navy (Mac & Julia); in-laws, Doug and Joni Sanderson, Mac and Julia Coyne; Jamie and Jim Bob Humphrey, Jake, Drew, Lane; Jen Hope, Brandon Cassidy, Lyvia; several aunts, uncles, cousins, countless friends and too many to name who all dearly loved him.

Preceding him in death were his grandparents, Carol O’Connell, Jed and Lucille Hoopes, and Greg O’Connell; his mother in-law, Dani Thornton Sanderson; and his sister in-law, Christa Sanderson.

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