Over the years, our highly trained staff has cared for generations of families. We are leaders in our profession, with a strong dedication to honesty, integrity and compassionate care.
Neil P. O'Connor, President & CEO
Neil O’Connor was born into a large Irish Catholic family in 1967 as the youngest of seven children. His parents, Jane and Joseph O’Connor had met through their families, both of which owned funeral homes. Jane's father, John Cox, owned a funeral home in Oakland, California, while Joseph's father, Joseph A. O'Connor, owned a funeral home in Los Angeles, California. John Cox and Joseph A. O'Connor were close friends, so close in fact that Joseph O’Connor was the best man at Johnny Cox’s wedding.
In 1975, Neil's family moved to Laguna Niguel, where Neil attended Dana Hills High School and graduated in 1986. Three years later, he joined the family business and became part of O'Connor Mortuary, starting at an entry-level position and working his way up from washing cars and performing service support. From 1991 through 1993, Neil served in the United States Navy as an Operations Specialist. He was training to become a Navy Seal, but unfortunately sustained an injury and was unable to continue his training.
After serving in the Navy, Neil returned to work in the family business, and in 2000 he became the President and CEO of O'Connor Mortuary, carrying on the family tradition of serving the community with high value, dignity, and respect. In 2003, Neil met his wife, Lisa, while on a yoga retreat in Maui. Together, they have one son, Jesse Joseph O'Connor. Neil continues to practice Ashtanga Yoga at Pacific Ashtanga in Dana Point, and he also enjoys playing beach volleyball at Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach, California.
Neil is involved with numerous local organizations and care providers, including Saddleback Hospital, Mission Hospital, Age Well Senior Services, the San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Niguel Chambers of Commerce, TIP Trauma Intervention Program, and the Interfaith Council of south Orange County Board of Directors. He is passionate about helping the community learn the benefits of pre-planning and the value of meaningful ceremonies, and above all, he strives to continue on the respected family tradition as the President and CEO of O'Connor Mortuary.
Joseph G. Fitzgerald, CFO
Joseph Fitzgerald grew up in Joliet, Illinois, then moved to California in 1984 after graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Communications from Depauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. While at Depauw, Joe was a two-sport athlete, playing football and baseball. He started his business career in sales with the Gallo Wine Company in Los Angeles and in the commercial real estate business as a broker. In 1992, Joe joined O'Connor Mortuary after spending seven years in the commercial real estate business. His primary responsibilities when he started were as a funeral director and assisting families with arranging and directing their funeral arrangements. He is currently the Chief Financial Officer, responsible for overseeing the financial aspects of the business, which includes budgeting and strategic planning.
As a member of the O'Connor family through his marriage to Kathryn, Joe is proud and honored to carry out the family's tradition of personal family service within the community. Joe and Kathryn have three children who keep them very busy. When Joe is not at one of his child's sporting events, he enjoys staying active mountain biking and running. He is also member of the Monarch Beach Rotary Club and was a past president of the Laguna Hills Club.
Charles A. Ricciardi, COO
Charles A. Riccairdi was born and raised in Pacific Beach, a (used to be) small town near San Diego, California. He graduated from Mission Bay High School in 1983, where he played on the school baseball team. In addition to playing sports, Charles grew up as an avid woodworker, building cedar chests, tables, dressers, and a 14-foot boat among other projects, several of which won awards at the Del Mar Fair. His father instilled in him a strong work ethic, which was apparent in the series of jobs he took on at a young age: he worked a paper route for the San Diego Union starting at the age of 12, then as a dishwasher at a family owned Italian restaurant, and later at Souplantation while attending school at Mesa Junior College and San Diego State. His hard work earned him multiple promotions, from dishwasher to management, and eventually on to be a food and equipment sales representative for S.E. Rykoff and Co.
He began working for O’Connor Mortuary in 1992 after marrying into the family. It was a field he never thought he would work in, but he quickly came to realize how rewarding it is to help families through the most difficult times of their lives. He has served in multiple capacities at O’Connor Mortuary, including running the Pre-Need sales department, spearheading the opening of the arrangement center in Irvine, serving as community relations liaison and crematory manager, and in his current position as COO, partner, and co-owner since 1999.
Charles is locally involved with the Lions club of Laguna Niguel as well as the Exchange Club of Irvine. His greatest accomplishment in life was meeting and falling in love with his beautiful wife, Loretta (O’Connor), and having three children who continue to amaze, thrill, and test the two of them everyday: Faith, Christian, and Cameron. It is his honor to help and serve the families of Orange County when they need it the most.
Jeff E. Turner, CAO
Jeff Turner was born in Garden Grove, California and raised in Westminster, California, with the exception of two years, 1964 to 1966, when his family lived in the village of Ollei in the Palau Islands. He graduated from Westminster High School in 1976, where he played the trombone in the jazz band, orchestra, symphonic band, and marching band, and was the drum major his senior year.
Jeff married his wife Karen on February 17, 1979. Together, they had two children and lived for three years above the first mortuary Jeff worked at in Long Beach, California while he completed the Mortuary Science program at Cypress College and his apprenticeship in 1987 to become a licensed embalmer and funeral director. He began working at O’Connor Mortuary in 1989 and has been a partner in the firm since 1999. He currently serves in the capacity of Chief Administrative Officer. His responsibilities include staff development and training, compliance with Federal and State agencies, IT development and maintenance, human resources, and management of decedent care.
Jeff is privileged to serve on the Cypress College Department of Mortuary Science Advisory Committee, and he and his family are proud members of the Bethany Church in Long Beach where Jeff has served on the Elder board since 1993 and as chairman since 2010. His hobbies include computers, small boat building, and sailing, a love of his since living aboard a 40-foot sailboat with his parents for three years as a teen. He and his wife are now members of the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club.
Jeff is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 1988 at the age of 29. Surgery and chemotherapy saved his life, and this ordeal has given him some insight into what many of the families he serves experience in the time leading to the death of a loved one. It is his great privilege to help just such families at the O’Connor Mortuary.
Patricia A. Kolstad, Director of Community Relations & Resources
Patricia A. Kolstad was born and raised in Long Beach, California. She attended Lakewood High School and first began working at the age of 16 at a hardware store owned by a friend's father in Santa Fe Springs. Her first paycheck was $27.00! At age 18, she became a teller at World Savings and Loan in Lynwood, and spent two years working her way up to the new accounts department. In 1969, she was hired as a secretary to the Vice President of Cal Stores, one of the very first “membership” stores in California. She loved working there, but left after five years to have children, during which time she spent three years at Genisco Technology in Dominguez Hills and received top security clearance to type and catalog military testing reports.
In 1984, Patricia was hired by a friend from church to work as the administrative clerk/secretary at Coon and Souder Mortuary in Long Beach, where she was responsible for filing death certificates with the county, as well as filling out and filing applications for veteran benefits and insurance claims. Once she learned the procedures and the importance of filing death information correctly, she realized that this was right where she wanted to be: helping behind the scenes and giving her best to support bereaving families. Jeff Turner, another good friend from her church, also started with this family-owned mortuary. In 1989, Coon and Souder Mortuary was sold to Stricklin & Snively, and Patricia followed to work in a similar capacity until 1992.
In 1993, Patricia received a call from Jeff Turner, now working for O’Connor Mortuary, asking if she was available to work while their secretary was on vacation. Having never traveled much farther than Huntington Beach, she barely even knew where Laguna Hills was! But, of course, she agreed to fill in, and later that year she was hired permanently in the administration department where she became the manager after two years, growing the staff of two to five. In 1998, she became the spokesperson for O’Connor Mortuary, becoming the first Director of Community Relations and Resources. In 2006, she relocated from Long Beach to Ladera Ranch.
During Patricia's tenure, O’Connor Mortuary has become the premiere educator on death, dying and bereavement and its effects, hosting continuing education classes for licensed professionals as well as Hospice volunteers, church bereavement teams, Stephen Ministers, lay volunteers and numerous senior centers throughout south Orange County. In addition, Patricia personally is a member numerous organizations, including the National Aging in Place Council (Orange County), the Trauma Intervention Program Advisory Council, the Guild of Saddleback Hospital San Clemente, Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council, Heartland Hospice Professional Advisory Council, the Irvine Prevention Coalition, and the Newport Irvine Rotary Club.
Patricia's life is full today, as she enjoys her four children and nine grandchildren. She loves gardening, hiking, photography, and just being outdoors. She has made lifelong friendships with caregivers throughout Orange County and enjoys spending time with her “gal pals.” As a proud member of the O'Connor Mortuary family, Patricia's focus is to always represent the O’Connor family as a mortuary steeped in the rich traditions of honesty, integrity and trust. Patricia sees herself as an instrument, one that helps connect professional caregivers and lay volunteers with the tools they need to care for families during their darkest days. Like one of her favorite quotes, from N. Henderson, Patricia strives “to plant trees under whose shade I will not sit.”