Joseph O’Connor was a kind soul, a giving person, a loving person, said Senyung Lee, a close friend of Joseph’s.
“We all learned so much from him, learned how to care about others,” Lee said. “So many of us are grieving.”
Joseph O’Connor, a 29-year-old graduate student in the Department of French Linguistics, passed away in his apartment Oct. 12.
Joseph cared a lot about others and was always willing to help, said Yılmaz Köylü, one of Joseph's closest friends. He said Joseph once gave $5 to an unhoused person he saw on the street, leaving himself with only $10 for a whole week. He said Joseph never declined a request for help, even from strangers.
“The most distinctive feature of Joseph was how selfless he really was,” Köylü said.
Köylü said he met Joseph in 2014 while pursuing a doctorate at IU. Joseph loved teaching French and spoke as fluently as a native speaker, he said.
Joseph was suffering from kidney failure, Köylü said. He had been on dialysis for the past four or five years and also had other underlying health issues.
Joseph was born on July 21, 1991, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and lived in Songtan, South Korea, in his early childhood. From 2005 to 2010, he lived in Wenatchee, Washington. He graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in French from Central Washington University, in 2016 with a master’s in Second Language Studies from the College of Arts and Sciences and was pursuing a doctorate at IU in the French linguistics program.
Joseph loved the language and culture of France, said Charlène Gilbert, a friend of his. She said he would smile whenever he saw her because he knew they could have a conversation in French.
“He cared more about others than he cared about himself,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said she still has a card Joseph made in 2017 for her birthday. He loved crafting things for his friends, especially on their birthdays and would remember the birthdays of people he wasn’t close to, Köylü said.
Lee said he handmade car seat mats for her birthday in 2016. He used Star Wars fabric because he knew she loved Star Wars. It took more than two weeks for him to make, she said, and was the most considerate gift she has ever received.
“He always remembered what his friends liked and disliked,” Lee said. “He was an incredibly considerate person.”
Köylü said one of his most memorable moments with Joseph was in January of 2017, when the two were driving to the airport for a conference. Köylü said because of the icy roads, the car began spinning out of control. When the car came to a stop, Joseph turned to Köylü and said, “Well, that was fun.”
While Köylü said he was worried they would miss their flight and the conference, Joseph was able to find the positive in the situation.
“He used to make the best out of a really bad situation,” Köylü said.
After his passing, Lee set up a GoFundMe to help pay for his memorial fund. Donors of the GoFundMe were refunded when they realized Joseph’s insurance under IU covered the memorial fees.
In an update to the page, Lee wrote, “Joseph is not letting us help him till the very last moment... typical of Joseph!”