On February 7, 2023, friends, family, and former colleagues gathered together at The Retreat’s administrative offices in East Hampton to remember Joe O’Connell, a pillar of the community. Mr. O’Connell died on October 10, 2022.
“Dr. Joe,” as he was affectionately known, was a counselor and educator, and he was deeply involved with the community. At The Retreat, he volunteered as a counselor and therapist, helping survivors of gender abuse and violence. He also assisted with fundraising for services and renovations at the Stephanie House, the Retreat’s safe shelter facility.
“He was always brainstorming new projects, generously thinking about others and their well-being. That was his nature,” said Loretta Davis, Executive Director at The Retreat. In 2016, The Retreat honored Dr. Joe for his service at their All Against Abuse annual gala.
At the remembrance, many expressed admiration for Joe’s passion to make the community a better place for those in need and for his generous spirit. Among those who spoke were Loretta Davis, Retreat Board President Claudia Pilato, Southampton attorney Steve Latham, and Steve Bergerson, both close friends of Dr. Joe, as well as Joe’s daughter, Kathleen O’Connell.
“When I think of Joe, there are a few words that come to mind: One is inspirational, another is selflessness, and maybe a third is compassionate,” said Mr. Latham. “He never gave up, he never ceased being optimistic that things were going to get done…it was impossible not to be inspired by him when you were in his presence.”
“I think it brought him an unbelievable sense of value and satisfaction to know that he was helping people in the smallest of ways and the biggest of ways,” said Ms. O’Connell.
To commemorate his life and legacy, a plaque will be hung at the entrance of his former counseling space in the Retreat’s East Hampton office, designating it as the Joe O’Connell Counseling Room.
In addition, a fund in his name has been created to support The Retreat’s counseling programs.
“We are thankful for the time Dr. Joe spent with us and for the lifetime commitment he made to this community,” said Ms. Davis.
Among his many community-led endeavors, Dr. Joe worked for the East Hampton School District as a part-time assistant superintendent and guidance counselor; spearheaded a capital campaign for the East Hampton RECenter, and was a founder of Project Most, which assists working families by offering after-school programs for children in East Hampton and Springs.