Bill R. O’Connor
Bill R. O’Connor

December 6, 1933

Bill R. O’Connor was born in Elsie, Nebraska, on December 6, 1933 to W.R. and Edna Cameron O’Connor, joining the family with his older brother, Jerry. Bill O’Connor comes from a family of well-known Nebraska ranchers and stock contractors, W.R. O’Connor and Sons. The family emigrated from Ireland to Elsie, Nebraska in 1884. Bill spent many years as an arena director and pick-up man for W.R. O’Connor and Sons. He participated in saddle bronc, bareback riding and calf roping in his early years of rodeoing.

Bill attended the University of Nebraska School of Agriculture at Curtis, Nebraska.

When team roping became a competitive event in Nebraska in the 1960’s, Bill began heeling on various teams throughout western Nebraska and Colorado. He placed second in the Nebraska State Rodeo Association in 1963 with his partner, Bob Kinsman. He and Terry McGinley later participated in the team roping event at the Denver Stock Show in 1965. He qualified for the Old Timer’s National Finals in Amarillo and Reno every year he competed, which was approximately fifteen years. He and Gordon Kostman placed second in the average in 1973.

Bill married Mary Alice Feltz O’Connor and they have two sons, Billy and Sam.

Bill ranched from 1953 to 1957 on an O’Connor Ranch near Wallace, Nebraska. In 1957, he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served as a security specialist. He was stationed in Okinawa, Korea, England and Eritrea.
Bill participated in the original re-enactment of the Pony Express in Nebraska. He took part in the Pony Express rides from 1960 until 2007. For many years, he was director of the Western Nebraska Region of the Pony Express Re-enactment. He and his sons, Billy and Sam, carried the Olympic torch on horseback on its journey to the 1967 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Bill has been an active member and director of many organizations. Bill served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Keystone from 1979 to 2009. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Ogallala Roundoup, Inc. and the Chairman of the Area 14 Stockgrowers Association in the 1970’s. He is a past member of the Knights of Columbus and has been a lifelong member of Elks Lodge 1760 in Ogallala, Nebraska. Bill and his wife, Mary Alice, are also members of the Keith County Community Foundation. In 1985, Bill received the Nebraskaland Days Trail Boss Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the sport of rodeo in Nebraska.

Bill also served as President of the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association for numerous years. He has been an ardent supporter of Nebraska High School Rodeo. His grandchildren carry on the family tradition of participation in the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association, so it is no surprise that you’ll find Bill on the rodeo circuit or in the practice pen on many summer evenings or weekends. Bill is head chute boss and ready to share his rodeo knowledge once again with his grandsons and their friends. He has a horse or two as well as a pickup and trailer for them to use and lots of tried and true advice. There’s also a big smile on Bill’s face as he’s back doing what he loves and in that familiar place…the rodeo arena.

Bill’s friends have said that if someone needed a ride to a rodeo, a horse to ride, or a practice pen to prepare in, Bill was always willing to help, especially the kids. He offered his patience and expertise to anyone willing to listen and learn. He might even share a rodeo or war tale, too!

A friend stated, “Bill O’Connor fits the description and has the qualifications of a real cowboy. He has worked with cattle all his life, been involved in the sport of rodeo, built his herd of cattle and established a foundation of ranching to be passed to the next generation. A true cowboy respects his family, animals, land and country, of which Bill has done for many years. He is a cattleman, a businessman was pride and dignity, and a cowboy. His word is his bond and he has a labor of love for his family and life. He has proven over the years to be a “good hand,” an honest and loyal friend, and a real cowboy.”

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