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Port Orange Observer Monday, Jun. 11, 2018 1 week ago

Rad Dad: Port Orange father puts family above all else

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Meet the Port Orange winner of this year's Rad Dad contest.
by: Jarleene Almenas Staff Writer

Port Orange resident John O'Connor loves when his daughter puts the top down on her convertible, cranks up the oldies on the radio and drives down to have lunch at Goodrich's on the river. 

Their daddy-daughter lunches are reminiscent of when Kat Atwood was a child in the 1970s and O'Connor would take the family on a picnic or camping in a small-popup camper along the St. John's river. She said growing up, she and her siblings didn't have much, but they never knew that because of the way her father raised her.

“Family first," Atwood said. "Family always. That’s always what he said.”

O'Connor moved to the U.S. from Glasgow, Scotland, and gained citizenship before joining the Navy, where he dedicated 32 years of service. All of his children followed in his military footsteps. He taught his children to work hard for anything they wanted, teaching them the difference between a "want" and a "need," Atwood said.

If they really wanted something, Atwood said her father taught them to work for it.

“That was always huge, because we all went on to raise our families the same way," Atwood said.

She was also able to share a very special moment with her father during her 22-year-service in the Navy. When she became a senior chief petty officer, it was O'Connor, a retired master chief petty officer, who pinned her anchors on her collar. 

As a grandfather, Atwood said her father has been able to hold all the babies in the family and put them to sleep "in a heartbeat" as if the babies themselves could sense his calming spirit. Atwood will always remember his unconditional love for them, as children and now as adults.

Now 81, O'Connor calls bingo at the Our Lady of Hope Roman Catholic Church, where he's also a lecturer. He is still adventurous, Atwood said, and likes to travel. He also recently celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary.

He never told them they couldn't do something — on the contrary, he encouraged them to meet their goals. Atwood said his disbelief in becoming idle made her and her siblings into "doers."

It set the standard for the kind of man she married, Atwood said. 

“He’s just so much to so many people and he wants nothing in return," Atwood said. "He just wants people to be happy and get along.”

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