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Obituary: Patrick O’Connor

Writer, publisher, poet, theater and dance critic died on Saturday, Oct. 13, at age 87

Patrick O'Connor, writer, theatre and dance critic, publisher, television producer, poet, and theatre director, died from complications of pneumonia on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 in Houston, Texas. He was 87.

Patrick O'Connor was born in coal territory, Braddock, Pennsylvania, the eldest of five, on August 26,1925. His father was the soccer coach at the local high school. Braddock continued to play a major role in Patrick's life: up until quite recently, Patrick wrote a weekly-ish column for the local paper, The Valley Mirror, about his life and experiences from all over the country and the world.

Patrick had attended Catholic University where his classmates became life-long friends included Sada Thompson and Philip Bosco and where he studied with New York Times critic Walter Kerr (Patrick would quote Kerr on the subject of Chekhov; Kerr said that Chekhov was not a playwright. This, of course, appalled almost everyone).

With his Catholic University friends, he ran a theatre troupe in Rochester (Olympia Dukakis was the box office treasurer), eventually coming to New York where he had a variety of jobs, including that of assistant to a theatrical agent. One of his very best friends was Norma Lee Clark, Woody Allen's secretary for 30 years, who was encouraged by Patrick to start writing. She had quite a bit of success with her bodice-rippers.

Patrick was a major fan of everything. (Were you to ask him how he enjoyed a performance, be inevitably replied, "I was crazy about it."). He had on-going correspondence with a wide range of artists, writers and academics; among them Paul Taylor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Matthew Bruccoli and Robert Wilson. He launched many careers, including those of Leonard Maltin and Michael Medvedev and he mentored Hilton Als, now a staff writer and theatre critic at the New Yorker and professor at Columbia University.
Patrick was a founding member of the Dance Critics Association and also served as its president and conference coordinator, dipping into his own pocket when DCA's funds were frozen. Whenever a dance book was published, he would insist that he be sent a copy and a second one be sent to the Patrick O'Connor Dance Library in Israel.

As a dance critic (and sometime judge), he attended the annual competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Patrick also taught a summer course at Harvard in book publishing. He also taught at the University of Colorado Boulder.

He made many, many life-long friends. One of them was an East German scientist whose son is one of Patrick's godchildren and to whom Patrick would send long-playing records. For years, his friend would express his confusion about Patrick's choice of records: why send us classical records? One day, he decided to listen to one. It turned out that Patrick had been sneaking jazz records into East Germany in Beethoven sleeves.

Patrick had lived in New York City most of his adult life, moving to Killington, Vt so his partner, the late Andrew Ciesielski, and he could be ski instructors. They eventually moved to Glendale, California and also bad a home in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Patrick is survived by two sisters and one brother, dozens of nieces and nephews, many grandnieces and grandnephews and by his partner, Bill Sansom of Houston. The family has agreed that any memorial contributions be made to the Dance Critics Association.