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John "Jack" F.  O'Donnell

Obituary for John "Jack" F. O'Donnell

June 21, 1934 - November 12, 2019
Sugar Grove, Illinois | Age 85


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.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • In lieu of flowers memorials can be directed to The Chicago Dramatists.
  • Chicago Dramatists
    1105 West Chicago Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60642

Arrangements By

Healy Chapel

370 Division Dr
Sugar Grove, IL 60554
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