Tommy "Tom"'s Story
Tommy "Tom" Richard McConnell was born at home March 8, 1942 on the McConnell family farm outside of Stratford, Oklahoma. A beloved father and husband, he lived life on his own terms and is remembered for his devotion to his children, public education, baseball, the arts, Golden age radio shows, learning, and Western Swing. Tommy departed this life March 21, 2017 in Norman, Oklahoma. Tommy fondly remembered attending a two-room Corley community schoolhouse, continuing at Byars and graduating from Wynnewood High School in 1959 where he played center for the football team and served as student body president. He was selected for Oklahoma's first American Legion Boys State class remaining an active supporter and adviser throughout his life. Tommy began college at East Central University studying acting before serving in the United States Peace Corps between 1961-1963. He was trained and served as a translator and community nutritionist in Peru. Upon returning, Tommy completed an undergraduate degree in English Literature at The University of Oklahoma in 1965. Tommy enlisted in the U.S. Army February 23, 1966 proudly serving as a member of the 11th armored cavalry Blackhorse regiment and was awarded a Bronze Star for his year tour as a recon squad leader from October 1967-1968. His days in Vietnam and as a drill sergeant greatly influenced his leadership style and inspired his love for education. After his military service, Tommy returned to the United States to work in Detroit, Michigan before coming back to East Central University to earn a Master's in Education and being selected as the top male graduate. He continued his graduate education in OU's higher education doctoral program serving as the Walker Center Coordinator from 1971-1972 but his commitment to K-12 public education re-directed his studies to OU's Law School to become an education attorney. During law school, Tommy married Jane (Kittrell) McConnell and served as co-owner in his mother's fabric store the Golden Thimble in Ada, Oklahoma. A life-long Oklahoma public educator, Tommy first taught English in Earlsboro and later Spanish in Wellston. His administrative career began as a high school principal at Boswell and Fort Towson, superintendent at Morrison and Copan, and assistant superintendent/ legal-council at Oklahoma City's Metro Technology Centers. Tommy also taught at Oklahoma State and Central State University. He served as a legal counsel for countless Oklahoma public schools and was a proud founder of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Association. Tommy's professional career also included serving as Oklahoma City Community College's legal counsel and first director of the Cherokee Nation's Talking Leaves Job Corps program. Tommy married LeeAnn (Alexander) McConnell on September 4, 2009, in Whitesboro, Texas. They spent their days together enjoying Norman Youth Baseball Association Bison's baseball team and traveling the state. During his later years, Tommy began each morning feeding his backyard squirrels and birds, taking a daily walk, and continuing to serve as legal counsel for Sayre Public Schools and Northwest Technology Center. Beloved dogs Elle and Toby also provided great comfort and joy while he read. Tommy was an avid supporter of OU's arts and sports programs. He could equally be found across campus heckling visiting baseball teams as a Yardbird, sitting in the south endzone for a football game, attending World Literature Today and Osher events, and yelling his "bravos" at curtain calls. Tommy was addicted to action and learning including any who wanted to go along for the ride. And so, to this lifelong Roy Rogers Riders Club card holder, we sing "happy trails to you, 'til we meet again". Tommy is preceded in death by his parents; son-in-law, Cody Ponder, and a nephew. Tommy is survived by his loving wife of the home, LeeAnn McConnell; sons, Sheppard Richard Hughes and wife Megan Kistler-McConnell, Colton "Big Boy" & Preston "Sparky"; daughter, Johnnie-Margaret McConnell; sisters, Margaret Swimmer and husband Ross & Dorothea Noland; In-laws, Bill and Darla Alexander; brother & sister-in-law, Kelly and Denise Alexander and their children: Bryce and Brendan; and numerous other loving family and friends. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to the Norman Youth Baseball Academy, PO BOX 720848, Norman, OK, 73070. No viewing or visitation. Friends may leave condolences for the family at vondelsmithmortuary.com.
Published on March 24, 2017