Bernard L. "Lee" O'Connell

November 1, 1921 ~ October 2, 2018 (age 96)

Bernard L. “Lee” O’Connell, 96, of Corsica, and formerly of Aberdeen and Mobridge, passed away Tuesday, October 2, 2018, at The Good Samaritan Society - Corsica in Corsica, SD.

Graveside committal services, with military rites, will be held at 11:00 a.m., Monday, October 8, 2018, at Sunset Memorial Gardens Mausoleum in Aberdeen with Pastor Gary Compton of First Baptist Church officiating.

Schriver’s Memorial Mortuary and Crematory, 414 5th Avenue NW, Aberdeen, is in charge of arrangements.  Friends may sign Lee’s online guestbook at

Bernard L. “Lee” O’Connell was born November 1, 1921, to Dan and Verna (Reed) O’Connell at Aurora, NE.  He attended various grade schools and upon reaching high school went to live with his grandparents (the Reeds) at Arnold, Nebraska, graduating from Arnold High School in 1940.   After graduation, Lee went to Nampa, Idaho to live with his parents and went to work for the J. C. Penney store there.

Lee entered the United States Army on July 21, 1942 at Ogden, Utah.  After basic training, he was sent to Washington, D.C. to study cryptography at the War Department and was assigned to go to China; however, was promoted to instructor instead and sent to the Pentagon in Virginia, which at that time was still under construction.

While living in Washington, D.C., Lee met Rena Eleanor “Pat” Morse, of Bridgewater, Maine, while she was working for the Civil Service.  They were married on March 7, 1943.  In December of 1944, Lee was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and was sent to San Francisco, California to be trained by the Coast Guard.  He was assigned as a Security Officer to sail on merchant ships to the South Pacific; after signing off on security cargo there, Lee would hitch rides on Army planes back to San Francisco and would be assigned another ship.  While he was at sea, the war with Japan ended, and the ship was diverted to Yokohama, Japan to unload.  Upon his return to San Francisco, Lee was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and worked as Assistant Troop Commander on the troop ship “The Sea Cat” until his discharge in November of 1946.   

After Army life, Lee returned to a small ranch in Nebraska and in 1956 moved to Mobridge, SD to ranch and order-buy cattle and horses.  In 1982, Lee semi-retired and purchased a home on Richmond Lake near Aberdeen.  In 2004, Lee and Rena moved to Mitchell, SD.  The couple shared 64 years of marriage and raised three children together before she passed away on August 20, 2007.  Lee became a resident of Good Samaritan Society – Corsica in September of 2014, where he continued to reside until the time of his death.

Surviving Lee are his children:  Carrie Lee Belkham of Stickney, SD, Mike (Luanne) O’Connell of Mobridge, SD and Patrick (Maria) O’Connell of Mercedes, TX; six grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

Lee was preceded in death by his wife, Rena; his parents, Dan and Verna; and one brother, Dan.

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