James Michael McConnell, 72, of Bonita Springs, FL., died of cardiac arrest on February 11, 2013, while on a Caribbean cruise with Mary Lou, his wife of 45 years. Jim is survived by Mary Lou; his brother, Thomas Hugh, III, and his wife Marianne of Dallas, TX; his daughters Laura Stemmler and her husband, Michael, of Westfield, NJ, and their children Lucy, James-Wolfgang and Jonathan; and Kelly Banner and her husband, Alan, of Darien, CT, and their children Brooke, Charlie, and James.
Jim was born in Dallas, Texas on January 26, 1941. He grew up in Sulphur Springs, TX. In 1957 he moved to Dallas with his mother, Hazel Ditto, after the death of his father, Thomas H. McConnell, Jr. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1959, and from UT Austin in 1963 with a degree in physics and mathematics.
To know Jim was to be captured by his quick wit, unassuming intelligence and unfaltering honesty. No one, from janitor to titan, escaped his charm. He possessed a rare form of honesty-approachable, genuine, without pretense-the effect of which drew people in with magnetic force.
Jim was rooted. He loved all things Texas: tall tales, long rifle shots, endless horizons, big cigars, fast cars, and foxhole buddies. Not one for half-measures-once he hunted wild hogs with knife and spear-his two-fisted manner was life affirming. Even so, he was not one to impose his views, but encouraged family and friends to “lead an interesting life,” advice he lived-his adventures and misadventures are the stuff of family legend. He relished traveling, hunting, and fishing-not merely for enjoyment, but as a device to share special times and unique experiences with those he loved. He liked nothing better than to be among friends and family enjoying good times and good memories. And as you might expect, he was one hell of a storyteller.
“Honor, Duty, Courage, God, Family, Country.” These were the ranking principles of his life, values he imparted to his daughters, their husbands, and his adoring grandchildren. Jim loved this great nation, and was acutely aware of the good fortune of his birthright, to which he credited much of his success.
A shrewd and honest businessman, Jim left an indelible mark on the companies he worked for and led. He began his business life with Honeywell in Dallas, which led to his career in the controls industry. He worked for Emerson Electric for almost 20 years until he was recruited to become the CEO of Instron, which he led from 1990 to 2002, the year he retired. At the time of his death, Jim was serving on the boards of ESCO Technologies and Warren Resources.
Jim was a success in every important life role. He was a loving father, devoted husband, trusted advisor, and dedicated friend. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him. His effect on family and friends is his legacy to them and in turn their legacy to the many who never knew him.
Jim’s ashes are to be spread into the soil of Texas. A memorial service will be held at the Bonita Bay Club, 26660 Country Club Drive, Bonita Springs, FL, 11 AM, April 7. In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to: True Grit Fund, c/o Superintendent, SSISD, 631 Connally St., Sulphur Springs, TX 75482. The fund was established by Jim and his brother, Tom, to make an annual cash award to the graduating senior who, independent of grades, achieved the most success against the greatest odds.
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