Ralph S. O'Connor

August 27, 1926December 30, 2018

Ralph Sturges O’Connor, a true life force, departed this world on Sunday, the 30th of December 2018, in Houston. He was 92 years of age.

He was a wonderful man, a husband, father, stepfather, grandfather, great grandfather, brother, friend and mentor. An eternal optimist blessed with a terrific sense of humor, he was a true gentleman.

Born in Pasadena, California, he attended Manhasset High School, Manhasset Long Island and graduated from New Hampton Preparatory School. He enlisted in the Air Cadet Program in November 1943. Following his discharge from the Army Air Corps in 1946, he attended The Johns Hopkins University, graduating in 1951 with a degree in biology. Following graduation he moved to Sour Lake, Texas and began his oil and gas career as a roustabout for Highland Oil Company, where over the years he worked his way up the ladder becoming President and CEO of the Highland Oil Company in 1964. He left Highland Resources in 1987 to start his own firm, Ralph S. O’Connor & Associates. In addition to his oil and gas exploration and real estate activities, he served as a director of numerous companies, including Texas Eastern Transmission Company, Panhandle Eastern Corporation, First City National Bancorporation and First Commercial Corporation.

Ralph had a great interest in education at all levels. He truly enjoyed his involvement with schools, students and faculty in both academics and athletics. Houston and the arts also received the benefit of his interest by significant contributions to the business, civic and cultural communities of the city he loved. He took great pride in the time he served as a trustee or director of Rice University, The Johns Hopkins University, Texas Southern University, The Kinkaid School, Episcopal High School, Oldfields School, The Marian and Speros Martel Foundation, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Texas Children’s Hospital and as Chairman of Hermann Hospital.

Ralph shared his enjoyment of travel with his wife Becky, family and friends. Over the years, many fun trips and events he organized were the highlight of the year. His love of contemporary art started at an early age and the adventure of collecting carried on throughout his life.

He is survived by his wife, Becky Gorham O’Connor; four children, George R. O'Connor, Thomas "Toby" I. O'Connor, Nancy O'Connor Abendshein and John H. O'Connor; their spouses, Lynn O'Connor, Barbie O'Connor, Mark "Butch" Abendshein and Sarah O'Connor; stepchildren, David Gorham and Laura Gorham; nine grandchildren, Ryan O'Connor and his wife Amy, Kelly O'Connor, Maconda Abinader and her husband Sacha, Nancy O'Connor, Andrew Abendshein, Ralph Abendshein, Rebecca Duncan and her husband Chris, Ian O'Connor and Charlie O'Connor; four great-grandchildren, Louisa O'Connor, Georgia O'Connor, Marcus Abinader and Alice Abinader; and sister, Edith Pashayan. Mr. O’Connor was predeceased by his parents; his brothers, Thomas and John; his sister, Connaught; and Maconda Brown O’Connor, mother of his children.

Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from five o’clock in the afternoon until seven o’clock in the evening on Friday, the 11th of January, in the library and grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

Following a private Rite of Committal at Glenwood Cemetery, a Memorial Mass is to be offered at one o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 12th of January, at St. Anne Catholic Church, 2140 Westheimer Road in Houston, where the Rev. Al Sinasac, C.S.B., Pastor, will serve as celebrant.

Serving as honorary pallbearers during the services are his friends and associates, Dr. William Bryan, Karen George, Philip Hawley, Karen Mathews, Frank McGuyer, Dr. Wilfred Potter, Clive Runnells, Dr. George Rupp, Fayez Sarofim and Mark Tawney.

In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in his name be directed to the O’Connor Women’s Tennis Endowment, c/o George R. Brown Tennis Center at Rice University, 6100 Main Street, MS-553, Houston, TX 77005-1892; or to the Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center Maintenance Endowment Fund, Johns Hopkins Blue Jays Unlimited, 3400 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD, 21218.


  • O’Connor Women’s Tennis Endowment
  • Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center Maintenance Endowment Fund, Johns Hopkins Blue Jays Unlimited


  • Visitation with the Family

    Friday, January 11, 2019

  • Memorial Mass

    Saturday, January 12, 2019

  • Memorial Service

    Saturday, January 12, 2019


Ralph S. O'Connor

have a memory or condolence to add?

Liisa Rogers

January 21, 2019

To Becky, George, Nancy, Toby and John:
My thoughts are with you as you grieve this loss and find new paths without your husband and father.
I will always treasure wonderful memories of my time in Houston with all the O'Connors, and especially of Ralph and his big smile, eyes twinkling, and enthusiasm for life. Peace be with you.
Liisa Honkalehto Rogers

Richard Chambers

January 16, 2019

I met Mr. O’Conner after the company that I was working for was purchased by Mr. O’Conner. At our first meeting in Midland, he asked if we were having any problems. I spoke up and explained that one of his companies would not give us any of their work. I went on to tell him it was Highland Resources in Post. Without pausing he picked up the phone and called the superintendent of the field and said: “Neal, this is Ralph and a fellow named Richard Chambers is coming up there and you will be purchasing materials from him.” He went on and explained that Highland Resources and Highland Pump were now brothers and sisters. I will never forget how he treated me and other people that worked for him. I was one employee out of thousands, but he treated me with great respect. Highland was a great company filled with wonderful people.

Sandy Sheil

January 11, 2019

My favorite times were when I could go to a game with Becky and Ralph. My all time favorite was when we were seated waiting for the game to start. An official came to Ralph and asked if he wanted to sit courtside tonight? I am not sure he really wanted to but we ended up sitting courtside. I saw Dick Bavetta was one of the referees. I had razzed him many times about calls, races with Charles Barkley, Cal Ripken Jr etc when he flew out on American after reffing games. He saw me and came over....How the heck did you score courtside seats he joked. I introduced him to Becky and Ralph. Later, during a timeout he came over to us, passed the basketball to Ralph and got called away. I told Ralph that Dick wanted his autograph, after hesitation Ralph took out his pen and autographed the game ball. Dick came back to get the ball not knowing Ralph had autographed it. We all laughed, the Rockets had played with an official Ralph S O'Connor basketball 😂.
The next time Dick was referee he heard a woman yelling "Dick", "Dick" and Ralph waving. They were in different seats but Dick remembered them and told me he saw them. He always looked for them from then on. They sure are nice folks. I definitely agree.I will miss those once in awhile post cards, sometimes spending quite awhile figuring out what a word might be 😊

Hoping for a postcard from Heaven
Love, hugs and prayers
Sandy Sheil

David Kaplan

January 9, 2019

I met Ralph in 2008. I am a professor at Johns Hopkins and had an idea for a documentary film about particle physics. Ralph was in Baltimore for the day as a member of an advisory board when he and the other members watched a short clip my team and I had made. I was introduced to Ralph and Becky before dinner, and after questioning me for ten minutes, Ralph made one of the first substantial investments into the movie. Two weeks later, he doubled it. Ralph, in that brief period, turned a pipe dream into a reality. Throughout the years it took to complete the film, Ralph constantly offered support and was our biggest cheerleader. The movie, Particle Fever, has been seen by millions of people and translated into over a dozen languages, inspiring young people everywhere to enter fields of science. From reading Ralph's bio and speaking to folks at Johns Hopkins (not to mention walking by his name on the athletic center every day), it is clear that the movie was only a tiny part of the significant impact Ralph has had on so many lives. I regret that our meeting in 2008 was the only time we spoke face to face. I will be coming to Houston and pay my respects, as well as those from my family and the entire Particle Fever team. We are eternally grateful. Thank you Ralph.

Roy O'Connor

January 4, 2019

When Susan and I arrived in Houston from Cairns, Australia, it was Ralph who welcomed us, introduced us to many of his friends, and became a lifelong friend and mentor. We even lured him to join us on a memorable return to Cairns, where he dove the famous Cod Hole. For many years he would show up with that T-shirt, confirming he had dove that magical spot. We ventured together to Salmon fishing in Quebec, chasing quail in South Texas, and even playing tennis in California. We will never forget his kindness to us, our children, he is a God father to our son Philip, and his good humor and positive outlook on life. Having the same last name as Ralph was indeed a blessing, as was his friendship.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family,
Roy and Susan O'Connor

Johns Hopkins Alumni Association

January 4, 2019

To the O’Connor family,

Please accept our deepest condolences. Ralph’s generous spirit touched the lives of countless students and faculty at his alma mater over many decades. His belief in and commitment to the power of education and the potential of every student is an inspiration and a legacy that will live on for generations to come.

Mr. & Mrs. Edward T. Brown

January 4, 2019

Dear O'Connor Family,
Thanks for your generosity, my daughter is a recipient of families Scholarship fund. We are praying for your family. Mr. O'Connor will truly be missed.

Scott & Kaylin Union

January 3, 2019

We had the pleasure of meeting Ralph and Becky in La Jolla 15 years ago. Ralph’s glow and radiance actually offset is large physical presence to create a warm, comfortable and inviting environment whenever we were with him. The gleam is his eye always kept us captivated waiting for him to drop a nugget of wisdom or equally likely a witty observation, joke or friendly barb that would bring a smile to your face or a true belly laugh. His larger than life spirit will continue in the minds and hearts of all who were fortunate enough to meet him. He will be dearly missed but forever remembered. RIP

AJ Fairbanks

January 3, 2019

Dear Mrs. O’Connor and Family -

I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Uncle Ralph. While I did not know my Uncle well, I was able know him via his sister’s wonderful stories about her brother. From the story of how he would calm a crying baby by getting in to the crib to his college homecomings offering his sister and friends sledding on the golf course. Of course, he always was available for a reassuring word or guidance.

Please accept my heartfelt sympathies. Our prayers are with you during this time.
A. Fairbanks

George Webb

January 3, 2019

Rice University's official historian Melissa Kean has published a splendid tribute to Ralph, including a couple of rare pictures: one from Ralph's service on the Rice board of trustees in 1968, and one from the groundbreaking of Rice's Martel College in 2000.