Man who drowned at Tempe Town Lake loved helping people

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by Ryan O'Donnell

Bio | Email | Follow: @3TVODonnell

azfamily.com

Posted on April 21, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 21 at 5:40 PM

TEMPE, Ariz. -- There was a sports salute Sunday to a man who loved sports.
 
“He loved competition, he loved the drive and the tenacity, and the commitment and dedication to sports it was just something about him that made up who he was,” said Christina Mencuccini who was a long time friend of Joseph O’Connor.

O'Connor was boating on Tempe Town Lake Saturday morning when several people saw him fall out of the rig he was in and drown.
          
“I called him Joe once and he got so mad at me,” said Michele Thorne, who learned quickly that Joe went by his lake name, Oakie.

They wound up developing quite the friendship.

“I've never met someone so dedicated to the lake, to getting people on the water to making sure people were safe and had fun out there, that was his mission was to get as many people on the water as he possibly could," said Thorne.
 
O'Connor was a longtime City of Tempe employee, coach and mentor to anybody wanting to get on the water. On Sunday morning, his friends honored him by rowing out to where his body was found and placed flowers in the water.
 
“He was always dragging boats, kayaking, rowing, he was a good guy, just really going to miss him,’ said Jean-Anne.
 
Right now, police aren't sure exactly what caused O'Connor not to surface. Although, they suspect it was because of some kind of medical issue. 
 
“He's going to really be missed, he was a good guy, he was always down here, he loved the lake,” said Jean-Anne.

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