Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saying goodbye to my brother Casey

I created the photo above by taking an older photo of my brother Casey and shooting it in the same spot in what was my late father's house this past week. In a sense it allows Casey to come home one last time. Casey died this past week in India when he fell from a train platform. The photo is featured on the web site

My sister Clare and I wrote the following obituary for Casey, which appeared in the Austin American-Statesman.

Casey John O'Connell died in an accident at a train station in Kerala, India, on Oct. 31.

He was born in Austin on June 11, 1956, to William Robert O'Connell and Wylma Louise “Cassie” O'Connell Ruelke, who both preceded him in death.

Casey graduated from Austin High School where his great joy was acting in plays as part of the Red Dragons. He later appeared in local productions, including at Zachary Scott Theatre, and was an occasional movie extra. He taught himself to juggle and ride a unicycle, and he rode his bicycle everywhere, including a cross-country trip with his oldest brother Wroc.

He received his LVN degree from Austin Community College and took great joy in working with newborn babies at Seton Hospital. He went back to school to earn a degree in chemistry and physics from Southwest Texas State University where he worked in the chemistry lab. Early on he commuted to campus by bicycle from Austin and liked to tell of his collision with a house (it was on wheels and being transported down I-35).

He had lived for many years in India, where he taught math and science and met his wife Magali.

Casey could fall asleep sitting up while doing a crossword puzzle and still have a semi-coherent conversation with you (though he wouldn't remember it later). He liked to play card games into the night or until he started winning. He was a vegetarian who could eat endless amounts of food and never gain weight. He remained as limber as a teenager. He liked to talk and talk and talk. He was a kind and gentle soul who truly cared about people and always had a smile. He was mischievous, funny and could tell a great joke, but only a mathematician would get the punch line. He somehow managed to keep alive the joy in life that fades for most of us with our first gray hairs, and what was left of Casey's hair was solid white. Most of all he was a great brother to five siblings who will forever feel his absence.

He is survived by his wife, Magali O'Connell; sisters, Mary Ann O'Connell and Clare O'Connell of Austin; brothers, William Robert “Wroc” and Lorie O'Connell of North Carolina, Daniel Pius O'Connell and wife Tarla, and Joseph Matthew O'Connell and wife Tiffany of Taylor; a niece, Shanthi O'Connell; and nephews, Russell Harvey, Will Harvey and Nicholas O'Connell.

Memorials can be made to the Zachary Scott Theatre at


Adrianne Pamplin said...

Casey sounds like he was an extraordinary guy. I am very sad for you, his wife and family. This piece is such a nice tribute. Love, Adrianne

Joe M. O'Connell said...

Thanks, Adrianne. This last week has been very difficult. I got a call about his death in the middle of talking about my book (in other words: talking about death) to students from Denmark. Fortunately I chose to ignore my phone at that moment.

I hope y'all are doing well.--Joe

Sarah said...

I found your blog from Dear Photograph's twitter. What an AMAZING tribute to your brother. He was as blessed to have you as a brother as you were to have him. He sounds like a wonderful person. Although I am a stranger I am so sorry for your loss.


Joe M. O'Connell said...

Thank you, Sarah. That's very kind of you.--Joe

Anonymous said...

I also saw your photo on Dear Photograph - it brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...


What an amazing brother you are to Casey. Anyone can see the love you have for him. I am so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

I had no idea and I'm sorry for your loss, Joe. Very nice piece. Sorry I never met him (or I don't remember if I did). Wish you the best.