O’Connell reflects on 28 years of volunteering

Keeli Telleen, Stampede Reporter

Through a series of “freak accidents” as he calls them CMR photographer and legend Patrick O’Connell discovered he wasn’t afraid of teenagers. Events culminated when O’Connell got a call one night from someone asking him to take pictures in the fall.

“And you don’t argue with Jack Johnson,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell was referring to CMR’s longtime head football coach, and that is how he got his start taking pictures of CMR students 28 years ago. But his venture into photography began even before that, in a much different setting: Vietnam.

“In May I graduated [college], June I got married, July I got drafted,” O’Connell said. “I couldn’t chase the honeys, so I got a camera and started taking pictures.”

Since then, O’Connell has been seen, camera in hand, at many CMR events from basketball games to prom. He says it takes a lot of trust, but he has arrived at the point where he can walk into any classroom and take pictures without being questioned.

“You don’t do it for the money. I’ve thought of going to other schools,” O’Connell, a graduate of Central Catholic High School, said. “But my heart is here.”

“I love being in your world, but I’m glad I’m not [a teenager anymore],” he said. “When I was a teen, it was fun. We had Buddy Holly.”

Still, he calls teens “lovable,” and “full of life.” He’s not sure when he will leave CMR either.

“Maybe three years. Probably when Kloppel calls me down and says, ‘you’re done,’” he laughed. “I like to travel, but I can’t take CMR with me.”

Surrounded by a group of CMR students, talking and reflecting, it is clear that O’Connell is in his element.

“Teachers don’t get this, but I’m not an authority figure. I don’t want to be Mr. O’Connell,” he said. “I’m just Pat. I just want to be your friend.”