Tribute paid to Welwyn businessman who died at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital after contracting COVID-19

PUBLISHED: 16:37 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 01 April 2020

John O'Conner with his son Matt. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.

John O'Conner with his son Matt. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.

Archant

The chairman of a Welwyn business passed away on March 24 after being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus earlier this month.

John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd celebrated 50-years in 2019. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd celebrated 50-years in 2019. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.

John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance Ltd said their Chairman, John O’Conner, had underlying health issues and was moved to the Intensive Care Unit at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital but died following a 12 day battle with the illness.

The Hertfordshire company said: “John was an immense character and much loved family man who will leave a long and lasting memory for all who met and knew him.”

Back in the 1970’s, he was using a knapsack sprayer and triple mower. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.Back in the 1970’s, he was using a knapsack sprayer and triple mower. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.

They said: “Originally from a farming background, John was born in Sussex but spent his formative years in Surrey before moving to North London at the age of 18. He then joined what was then the General Post Office (GPO), training as a telephone engineer.”
He started the company, which celebrated its 50 year anniversary in 2019, after relocating to Stevenage in the mid-1960s. It now employs more than 500 staff with an annual turnover of £18m.

John was also known “for his love of cars” and personal number plate “Mow It”.

He was appointed Chairman of the British Association of Landscape Industries from 2006 – 2008. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.He was appointed Chairman of the British Association of Landscape Industries from 2006 – 2008. Picture: John O'Conner Maintenance Ltd.

The company added: “In his spare time, John was a member of the Rotary Club was extremely proud to receive the Paul Harris Fellow and was an active member in many local fundraising projects and other charitable organisations.

“His other great passion was the ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ story and was a collector of Captain Bligh memorabilia. John had visited the Pitcairn Islands on several occasions and had struck up lifelong friendship with descendants of the mutineers.

“On his visit to the Pitcairn Islands in 2005, heavy storms kept John on the Island for five weeks with no contact with his family. He eventually managed to convince the captain of a converted oil rig boat to take him on a three week voyage to New Zealand, where he caught a flight home.

“John will be sadly missed by so many people throughout the industry and all thoughts go to Matt, Liz and family at this difficult time.”

The maintenance company added that the former Chairman of the British Association of Landscape Industries had strong principles and values will remain the bedrock of the business. They said: “He showed great passion, not only for his business, but the industry as a whole.”


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