October 8, 1941 – September 13, 2023
James Francis “Frank” O’Connor, 81, retired professor of Economics at Eastern Kentucky University, passed away on September 13, 2023, at Baptist Health – Lexington after a brief illness. He was born on October 8, 1941, in Killarney, Ireland, the oldest child of the late Bartholomew “Batt” O’Connor and Sheila Allen O’Connor. Frank grew up on his family’s farm in Killarney, and, as a teen, assisted his father in his limestone business. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics at the National University of Ireland (Dublin), which was then known as University College Dublin. He moved to the United States for graduate school, first at Penn State, then to the Twin Cities, where he earned a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Minnesota and met Pat Andrews. He and Pat married in 1968 and enjoyed immersing themselves in several different communities over the next fourteen years as Frank taught at Virginia Tech, Penn State, the University of Iowa, and the University of Florida. During that time, they had three children, all born in different states. In 1982, Frank began teaching at Western Carolina University, and in 1989 the family moved to Richmond, where Frank taught economics at Eastern Kentucky University until his retirement in 2018. During the last decades of his career, Frank focused his research on the economy of Kentucky, its regions, and those of neighboring states. He researched regional variation in income levels, poverty, and income distribution; the potential of dedicated energy crops in central Kentucky; and mortality rates at mid-life. Starting in 1999, he served for over 20 years as one of ten members of Kentucky’s Consensus Forecasting Group, which is tasked with making official forecasts of revenue for the Governor and Legislature to use for budgeting purposes.
Frank was passionate about economics and teaching and was always eager to discuss politics and current events. He and Pat enjoyed traveling, both in the United States and abroad. They took regular trips to Ireland to visit treasured family and friends, and Frank spent two sabbaticals there to research local economic issues. Although he grew up playing Gaelic football, Frank learned the minutiae of baseball, and he and Pat enjoyed following Major League Baseball and taking their kids to games in the many places they called home. Frank was a voracious reader of non-fiction, enjoyed yardwork – specifically tending his vegetable garden, roses, and trees – and was an excellent cook; his omelets, stir-fries, and Eggs Benedict were second to none. He was a member of St. Marks Catholic Church in Richmond.
Frank is survived by his wife of 55 years, Pat O’Connor; his children, Lynn O’Connor, Eoin O’Connor, and Eileen O’Connor (Justin Giovannelli); his grandchildren, Nora, Kiera & Julia Giovannelli; one brother, Liam O’Connor; and two sisters, Síle O’Connor, and Noirin Azzouni (David); beloved first cousins and extended family in Ireland; and a host of friends near and far.
The family receives friends for visitation from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, September 19, 2023, at the Combs, Parsons & Collins Funeral Home, W. Main St., Richmond. A funeral mass is at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, at St. Marks Catholic Church, 608 West Main St., Richmond, with Father Tom Farrell officiating.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to: The Christian Appalachian Project, PO box 55911, Lexington, KY 40555-5911, or The Alzheimer’s Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., FL. 17, Chicago, IL 60601. The original EKU Memorials can be found here.