What you notice first about Herald Community Newspapers Executive Editor John O’Connell is his magnetic smile, those who are close to him say. As you get to know him better, you quickly realize that he is a kind soul who is always willing to give of himself to others.
O’Connell’s generosity recently earned him the title of Man of the Year from the Nassau County Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic organization founded in 1836, when the Hibernian Benevolent Society and the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society merged in New York City. O’Connell will be honored at a ball at the Irish American Center in Mineola on Oct. 20. He was selected for the honor by the Nassau County AOH Board.
In the 19th century, the Ancient Order of Hibernians supported the waves of Irish immigrants who landed in America, many having escaped famine in their homeland. In the early to mid-20th century, the group fought xenophobia directed at Irish Americans, and exists today to help care for the poor while keeping Irish traditions alive through music and dance festivals.
“John’s a Hibernian in good character,” said Michael Byrne, president of the Nassau County Ancient Order of Hibernians. “He models friendship, unity and Christian charity. He’s very, very active in the Hibernians. He does a lot of charity work. And he’s just a gentleman.”
Membership in the AOH, a national organization, is limited to Irish-American Catholic men age 16 and over. The Nassau County AOH consists of eight divisions. O’Connell is a past president of Division 8 in Glen Cove, and was president of the Nassau County AOH in 2008 and 2009. The Nassau AOH has more than 1,000 members, and there are some 20,000 Hibernians across NY state.
John is currently the elected state director for the Long Island district.
O’Connell, who has been with the AOH for more than 15 years, is also the national editor of the AOH’s Hibernian Digest, a newspaper that reports on the organization’s activities and fundraisers across the country.
“John is committed to the Irish American community,” said Sean O’Rourke, vice president of the Nassau County AOH. “He’s very involved with a lot of our activities.