CONCORD, Calif. - The family of an 86-year-old Concord man killed in a Thanksgiving Day DUI crash wrestled with mixed emotions on Tuesday. Although they were sad at their loss, they found solace in the last meal they shared with him.
"Kind of one of the silver linings that we did get," said Kevin O'Connell of his father, Tom O'Connell. "The accident just happened right after they left."
Kevin and his wife Katie are struggling to cope with the loss of the family patriarch, who leaves behind six children.
"One minute I’ll be perfectly fine and driving along, and then, all of a sudden I’m sobbing, and I’m overwhelmed by grief," Katie O'Connell said.
Marilyn O’Connell was driving the couple’s Toyota Camry after their Thanksgiving meal with family. They were on Oak Grove Road near Ryan Road in Concord when, without warning, they were hit by a Ford Fusion without its lights on, on the wrong side of the road.
Witnesses held the suspect until Concord police arrived. Police say the suspect, Damian Lopez-Avelino, 19, was drunk and unlicensed and had sideswiped another car moments earlier at Oak Grove and Treat Boulevard.
Marilyn suffered numerous broken bones and other injuries in the crash and is already out of the hospital - but still recovering and trying to go on without her husband.
Tom O’Connell was a retired accountant, a man of faith who was quick with puns. He was a doting father and grandfather who used to take his granddaughter to school.
"He would take her to the co-op preschool, and everybody knew Grandpa Tom," Katie O'Connell said.
Marilyn and Tom got married shortly after meeting at San Francisco State University. In the decades to come, they raised their kids in Concord, traveled and did everything together, from dancing with his daughter Theresa at her wedding in 2021 to enjoying a getaway in Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
"He had been married to my mom for 60 years. They’ve got that legacy, they’ve got the six children and then 15 grandchildren," Kevin said.
The family finds some solace that Tom was able to spend his last day with loved ones.
"He absolutely lived a full life," his son said.
Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at Henry.Lee@fox.com and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and www.facebook.com/henrykleefan