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Frequent St. Thomas Visitor Florence O’Connell Dead at 91

July 9, 2007 — Florence O'Connell, 91, one of St. Thomas' most spirited and faithful visitors, died June 1 in Sebring, Fla., at the Sunny Hills Assisted Living Facility.
O'Connell had been coming to the island since the 1970s to visit her daughter and son-in-law, long-time residents Barbara and Trent Lawrence. Barbara taught at Charlotte Amalie High School for decades, and Trent was a partner in the popular Back Street bar The Sandbox, where O'Connell and her husband, Gerard, loved to go to dance. They also swam frequently in Hull Bay.
Though O'Connell and her husband lived in Florida for decades, O'Connell was a Brooklyn native — which a few minutes of conversation with her made clear. She loved to visit St. Thomas and made fast friends with Betsy and Sam O'Meara, Jeff and Sandy Smith and Scott Martin.
O'Connell last visited the island from November 2006 to January 2007. Though her health was declining, she wanted to see her old pals. Deacon Bill Kenny would come to the Lawrences’ home to bring communion every week to O'Connell, a devout Catholic.
O'Connell and Barbara made a visit to Ireland in 1997, a dream of theirs that highlighted O'Connell's later years. Her cousins threw a party for her as only the Irish can, according to Barbara.
"And she never forgot that," Barbara said.
O'Connell was a retired supervisor with 24 years of service at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y. The O'Connells lived for 27 years in Pembroke Pines, Fla., where they moved in 1980.
She is survived by daughters Barbara Lawrence and Patricia Salisbury; son-in-law Trent Lawrence; and many nieces and nephews. Her husband, Gerard, died in 2002.
A Mass of the Christian Burial celebrating O'Connell's life was held June 22 at the Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

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