Eight Bells: John McConnell

Published on July 25th, 2018

John Hay McConnell passed away quickly and quietly in Dublin, Ireland on July 16 en route home to Southbury, CT following a vacation. His wife, Diana, was by his side. He was 78.

Born in New York City, John moved shortly thereafter to Manhasset, NY. An Admiralty Lawyer, he graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover in ’57, the University of Pennsylvania in ’62, St. John’s University ’70 (J.D.), were he was proud to make the Law Review, and NYU ’75 with a LLM in International Legal Studies.

He had a passion for the water and served in the US Coast Guard for 3½ years on active duty and 26 years in the reserves. While active he was assigned to the USCHGC SAGEBRUSH (WLB-399), Operations & Navigator; and Senior Controller COMIGANTS Sector Rescue Coordination Center in San Juan, PR. As a reservist he had 5 Unit commands and 3 Group commands. He retired as a Captain (0-6).

John worked at Purrington & McConnell, NYC, Proctors in Admiralty Law, from 1970-2013. His most famous case, Vana Trading vs. S/S METTE SKOU, 556 F.2d 100 (2d Cir. 1976) went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Another important decision was North Branch v. M/V MSC CALL, 132 F.Supp.2d 293 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).

An avid sailor, he was Honorary Secretary/Treasurer of the International Etchells Class for over 25 years and was named a Life Member of the Class in 2001. He was named a Life Member of the Class in 2001. John was an active member for over 30 years at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, CT where he sailed his Etchells and headed race committees for numerous years.

Music and opera in particular were an important part of his life and he was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Club in NYC. Since retirement he became a regular at Waterbury Symphony Orchestra as well any other musical events. His greatest pleasure since moving to Southbury was attending cultural events in the New Haven and Litchfield areas.

Recently he wrote a music-related column for the local Southbury paper. John was a voracious reader of history, happiest when travel involved a battlefield, and master chef of chowders and pies. He thrived in the company of family, friends, good food, and a Rum and Coke.

Extremely active in retirement at Heritage Village in Southbury since 2013, John was a member of the Southbury Tax Study Committee, Heritage Village Condo 19 Board Member, Chairman of the HVMA/HVF Legal Committee, Parliamentarian of the HVMA/HVF Boards of Trustees and Directors, Member of the Woodworking Club, and Men’s Club.

Adjunct of American Legion Heritage Village Memorial Post 204, it is the intention of the Post to award John with the highest honors possible at a ceremony at a later date.

John is survived by his wife, Diana Wallace McConnell; his cherished daughter, Barnet Wallace Sinclair; son-in-law, Richard Christian Sinclair; and his brother, Edward Charles Sinclair. John was the proud host father of two AFS Exchange students, Raphaele Lancelot Lemaire (FRA) and Roberto Pozzi (ITA).

John’s remains will be interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA in a private service. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra (CT), CT Lyric Opera , or Opera Theater of Connecticut.

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