Benefit Concert in Honor of OFHS Alum

Benefit Concert in Honor of OFHS Alum

By: Janice Neumann, Daily Southtown
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For all his challenges with epilepsy, Conor Morrissey loved his art classes at Oak Forest High School, which his mom said were a “getaway” from his physical challenges and kept him calm.

Morrissey, who died at age 23 after an epileptic seizure in 2017, even gave one of the sculptures he made in an advanced arts class to teacher Dan Chambers as a token of appreciation for his direction during four years studying art. The abstract sculpture is comprised of a platform of wood and various pieces of objects painted in a variety of colors and sits on Chambers’ shelf in his classroom.

“He was creative, liked to think outside the box as far as the projects we did in our class and enjoyed art,” said Chambers. “I think it was relaxing to him … he enjoyed the freedom of working with his hands,” said Chambers.

Chambers said it was fitting that the school will pay tribute to his former student in a Broadway-style benefit concert at 7 p.m. March 7. The Choir Departments of Oak Forest High School and Tinley Park High School will perform for the benefit at Oak Forest High School, 15201 S. Central Ave. and the admission is $7.

Proceeds from the concert will go to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. Conor Morrissey enjoyed the foundation’s camp as a youth.

Anne Morrissey, Conor’s mom, said her son had a hard transition from eighth grade to high school because of seizures and medication side effects. Brain surgery helped for a while and at school he enjoyed swimming and did well in math and English, she said.

Those physical challenges also seemed to give him an understanding of what other vulnerable people were experiencing, according to his mom.

“He would always dote on younger children,” said Morrissey. “I think in the back of his mind there was some kind of bond he had with younger children where he would be worried and he wanted to be sure they were safe.”

Morrissey said if other students were bullied because of their disabilities, he would stand up for them, too.

“That really hit a nerve with Conor,” said Morrissey. “He would definitely stand up for a kid who was bothered or harassed like that.”

Connor Morrissey’s upbeat personality and keen sense of humor also stood out, according to his mom and Chambers. He was also a hard worker and got a job at Savers Thrift Store in Orland Park right after graduating from high school.

“One of the rules of the house was we did not allow him to use epilepsy as a crutch or excuse and he knew that and he did not want epilepsy to define his life,” said Morrissey.

Staff at Savers became like a second family to Conor Morrissey, appreciating his strong work ethic, even as they had to call an ambulance at times because he had injured himself, said his mom.

Connor also is remembered at his high school, where students decided to dedicate this year’s concert in his honor.

School District 228 spokeswoman Jamie Bonnema said the students come together and pick a cause they would like to fundraise for with the combined concerts. The last benefit concert raised $2,950 for Relay for Life in 2017. The fundraiser was started by Oak Forest High School Choral Director Victor Pazik who has been at the school for over 30 years.

Connor’s mother said she was grateful the high school was going to hold a fundraiser in honor of her son, though his loss is still fresh.

“It’s going to be hard but it’s going to help me because it’s been such a struggle,” Morrissey said. “He was my buddy.”

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