John "Jack" F. O'Donnell

  • Born: June 21, 1934
  • Died: November 12, 2019
  • Location: Sugar Grove, Illinois

Healy Chapel

370 Division Dr
Sugar Grove, IL 60554
Tel. (630) 466-1330

Tribute & Message From The Family

John F. "Jack" O'Donnell of Sugar Grove, Illinois, passed away Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at the age of 85. He was born June 21, 1934 in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY, the son of the late John and Margaret Edna O'Donnell (nee Foley).

Jack attended high school at the Brooklyn Preparatory School and, upon graduating, matriculated at Marquette University in Milwaukee, graduating in 1956 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. Following graduation, Jack worked for a short time as a journalist before enrolling in Officer Candidate School in the U.S. Navy in May 1957. He was commissioned as an Ensign in September 1957 and immediately attended Diving School in Washington, DC, where he trained as a Salvage Scuba Diver. He completed the diving program in January 1958 and was assigned to the USS Arikara, homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Before departing for his post in what was then the territory of Hawaii, Jack married the love of his life in February 1958, Barbara Jean Lipton, a Jackson Heights girl he had known since childhood. Together they headed for the sun, palm trees and sea, and welcomed their first child, John, in November of that year.

Jack served in the Navy for five years, from 1957 to 1962, rising to the rank of Lieutenant, and serving variously in the capacities of Communications, Diving, and Recruiting Officer. Among the many assignments of his Naval career, Jack's dive team participated in nuclear bomb testing exercises in the South Pacific.

In 1962, Jack left military service as an officer but was recruited by the Navy to work for the Naval Security Group (NSG) as a civilian. At the NSG, Jack worked on a variety of classified intelligence gathering and protection projects.

In 1974, Jack was recruited by a close college friend, Eric Bishop, to join the American Dental Association (ADA) based in Chicago, where for the next 20 years he applied his formidable writing skills, penning speeches, congressional testimony and position papers advocating for the expansion of dental care insurance and group programs nationwide. He grew to understand and advance the often-overlooked role dental care plays in overall health.

Jack retired from the ADA in 1995, and then turned his attention full time to his twin passions, playwriting and following the fortunes of his beloved New York Yankees. He truly loved writing plays and enjoyed several successes along the way, seeing his works produced and performed in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. He was a masterful letter writer, as his many friends and family members who were fortunate enough to receive them can attest.

Jack is survived by his sons, John (Susie) O'Donnell and Stephen (Maria) O'Donnell; his daughter, Leslie Burns; his grandchildren, Jack and Riley O'Donnell, Kayla, Bailey and Nina Burns; many other family and friends. In addition to his parents, Jack was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara J. (Lipton) O'Donnell; his son-in-law, James Burns; and his sister, Mary (Robert) Noli.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be directed to the Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642

Funeral Mass will be held Saturday 11:00 a.m., November 23, 2019 at Holy Angels Catholic Church, (corner of Lancaster & Hardin) Aurora, IL 60506.
Visitation will be from 10:00 a.m. until the time of Mass. Interment will be private. Arrangements by The Healy Chapel, 370 Division Dr., Sugar Grove, IL 60554. For further information please call (630) 466-1330 or visit our website at to sign the online guestbook.


Condolence & Memory Journal

My relationship with Jack centered around his work as a playwright. Over the course of our collaboration he was generous, open, supportive, and thoughtful. I am grateful for the time he spent working with me, and for the overall contribution he made to his art. "Not as long as you heard my story, not in the fashion of today, but of its time." - from his play, ST. SCOTTY.

Posted by Neil Brookshire - Egg Harbor, WI - Friend   March 27, 2020

So sorry to hear of Jasck's passing. Although we havenot seen each other over the years, I've alwys enjoyed hearing from Jack at Christmastime. Heartfelt sympathy to his sons and daughter.

I am Aunt Catherine's niece, Carolynn McSorley, uncle Johhny's daughter

Now Carole McSorley Schaefer
formerly of Astoria, now Litte Neck,NY

Posted by Carole Schaefer - Little Neck, NY - family   January 20, 2020

So sorry to lose a cousin. Although we were unjable to see each other over the years, I always enjoyed hearing from Jack at Christmas time. Sympathies to his sons and daughter.

I am Uncle John McSorley's

Carole McSorley Schaefer
Little Neck,NY

Posted by A friend   January 20, 2020

Jack was not only a kind and generous man, but also a talented playwright whom I worked with years ago. My sympathies to his family and loved ones. We will very much miss him at Chicago Dramatists.

Posted by Will Dunne - Riverside, IL - Coworker   November 20, 2019

Please accept my heartfelt condolences for your loss. May your treasured memories of John always fill your heart with love and peace

Posted by A friend   November 14, 2019

My condolences to the family . May you find comfort in your treasured memories and Gods promise to return our loved ones who passed away in death . 1st Thessalonians 4 : 13 & 14 .

Posted by A friend   November 14, 2019

Jack was a special person and a special friend. I will miss him very much.

Posted by Molly Nadler - Chicago, IL - friend   November 14, 2019

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