Devon Reid O’Connell, loving husband, devoted father, thoughtful son, beloved brother and friend to many, passed away unexpectedly on December 12, 2022, in Cottonwood Canyon, UT at the age of 37.
Devon was born April 16, 1985, in Iowa City, Iowa. He grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where he attended Omaha Central High School. From an early age, his focus was writing, a skill he honed as a student journalist for the Central Register. In his senior year of high school, he and his team won the NSPA’s Pacemaker award for best high school newspaper in the country. He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he graduated in 2009 with a degree in English Language and Literature. In March of 2015, he began his dedicated career in public service as a Technical Editor for the Department of Defense at Dugway Proving Ground.
While attending college he met his best friend and future wife, Katie, with whom he shared a wide circle of friends and love for all things outdoors– skiing, fly fishing, backpacking and mountain biking, canyoneering, rock climbing, golfing, and camping. The couple moved to Utah after college to pursue a common career in wilderness therapy, together working in the field near St. George. They later moved to Salt Lake City, and in October 2015 were married in their favorite place, Big Cottonwood Canyon, surrounded by their loved ones. They became parents to their precious daughter Senna Belle in 2017.
Remembered for his sincerity and sense of humor, Devon’s talent for storytelling was a gift he bestowed on a great many who knew him. He devoted his life to serving others. Practicing his philosophy of naturalism, he packed meaning into each ritual, often leading the way to healing for friends and family in times of grief. An inquisitive learner and voracious reader, Devon sparked joy in all conversations when he could entertain those around him with wit and intellect.
Devon seemed most himself when sharing his love of the outdoors with others, and showed a deep, kind presence and joy when teaching these skills. He passes on his adventuresome spirit to his daughter, having taught her to ski and read, and sharing memories while traveling the world and camping in the great southwest. At camp, after cooking a delicious meal for friends and family (usually with fish he had just caught), a glow could often be seen coming from his tent as he would read endless bedtime stories to his daughter.
Katie and Devon lived their shared dreams of international travel while visiting Thailand, France, Hawaii and Italy, and shared other epic life adventures, including impromptu surfing lessons with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while honeymooning in British Columbia. He lived life largely and fully, with a childlike excitement for everything he did, especially when gathering people for his favorite holiday, Christmas. An avid connoisseur of food, he loved seeking great food experiences, and cooking for family and friends. He participated in Magic: The Gathering, and belonged to multiple Masters Ultimate Frisbee clubs including the Powder Hogs from Salt Lake City and Masters with Wasted Talent from Nebraska.
Devon is survived by his wife, Katie Nelson and daughter Senna, parents George and Bonnie O’Connell, sister Elena (Frank) Centamore, mother and father-in-Law Julie (Al) Thomson, sister-in-law Jenny (Kelly) Arens, brothers-in-Law Josh and Jessie (Holly) Nelson, and Drue Cull, nieces and nephews Mark and Cora Centamore, Austin, Noah, Grant and Keyton Arens, many cousins, aunts, uncles and beloved dog Miss Cleo. He is preceded in death by grandparents George and Peg O’Connell, Ken and Betty Pratt, uncle Mark Pratt and aunts Tammy Kingman and Shannon O’Connell, cousin Joshua Pratt, father-in-law Randy Nelson and his dog, Bootstrap Bill Turner.
His family and community of friends are invited to attend Devon’s Celebration of Life, Monday, December 19, 2022 between 12 and 3 p.m. at Eight Settlers Restaurant & Distillery, 7321 Canyon Centre Pkwy in Cottonwood Heights, UT. Memorial Services will also be held at a future date in Omaha, Nebraska.
Support for Devon’s family can be made to the family’s fundraiser on Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-the-family-of-devon-oconnell?member=23861377&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_content=undefined&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_source=customer&utm_term=undefined