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‘An incredibly decent human being’

Published: 30th Jan 2017
Author: Christopher O’Connor
Obituary: Michael O’Connor, Jensen Belts (11/12/1951-30/12/2016)
Cape Town, SA – My father was born in Natal, the eldest of 4 children. He was married to my mother, Dominique, for over 37 years, and he was the very proud father of my sister Giselle and I, and of his 3 grandchildren. 
He was always extremely active, either at the gym, playing tennis, cycling or hiking in the mountains. He completed over 10 Cape Argus Cycle Races and swam the Midmar mile numerous times.
In his academic and work life he was always very dedicated. He was an extremely hard worker, and an exceptionally intelligent guy all round, and he loved reading.
He had a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Natal, and an MBA from Wits University, and was top of his class in maths and stats.
He rose up the ranks at Tiger Oats at a very young age before deciding to go out on his own as an entrepreneur. He was a great businessman for over 40 years and had multiple successes in all the businesses he owned and grew.
The past 18 of those years were with Jensen Belts.
He always treated everybody with the utmost respect and professionalism and cared for his employees and their wellbeing. He was a gentleman through-and-through, and the term embodies all the qualities he had; respect, honesty, fairness, integrity and just being an incredibly decent human being.
  I’ve been the MD of Jensen Belts for the past 6 months and will continue the legacy of the company and my father. 
A tribute from Nicholas Bryant, A. Greenaways
After joining A.Greenaways in September 1999, my first customer call was on Jensen Belts. Back then they were still in the Old Mutual Business Park between 12th and 14th Avenue in Maitland. 
I was introduced to Michael O’Connor briefly at the first meeting (I was still wet behind the ears), and then began calling on him more regularly. Like so many of that generation, he had a lot of knowledge to pass on – and inevitably as we do, we try to take the very best little pieces shared with us – as we mould our own character. 
Michael was a very unique customer in my opinion, because even as a director of the business he had no problem rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in on the factory floor if need be… in fact, more often than not – that is where I found him when visiting. Often checking and sorting leather, which was a passion of his. 
He had an incredible relationship with all his staff. He knew everyone by name and his first order of business everyday was to walk the factory floor and greet everyone. Something that was very evident at his funeral on Saturday 14th January, where as many of his staff (as possible) attended a packed church to pay their respects. A testament to a very “old school” character where good business practices, honour, integrity and kindness were paramount. Michael’s goodwill extended long after work hours as well, providing his time to charitable work – something he did never expecting praise.  
I had the great privilege to travel overseas to the Asian Pacific Leather Fair in Hong Kong with Michael on 3 occasions. 
I think anyone who ever met him, would echo the fact that above all else he was a true gentleman. A true gentleman in every sense of the word. His passing has left a massive whole in the hearts of those who had the honour of knowing and working with him. Our sincere condolences to the entire O’Connor family. 
The family legacy continues at Jensen Belts, under the guidance and direction of his son. No doubt the company remains in solid hands, as the very best little pieces of Michael are evident in Christopher. I know he will continue to grow and expand Jensen based on their founding core values but with some bespoke flavour and his personal signature. We wish him well.
One of my favourite quotes, made me think of Michael whilst I sat listening to his eulogy on Saturday. So apt. 
For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks – not that you won or lost –
But how you played the game. – Grantland Rice
You continue to be celebrated in our hearts and minds.
©2017 S&V Publications
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