Erin O’Connor, 50, squatter, activist

Erin O’Connor in 2008.

Erin Marie O’Connor, an East Village squatter and activist, died Tues., July 25. She was 50.

Erin is survived by her son, Sequoia Gibson O’Connor, of New York City, who is in his early 20s.

Erin was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, by her parents, Bernard and Suzann O’Connor. She graduated from Wahlert Catholic High School in 1984 and attended Loras College, in Dubuque. She moved to New York City, where she spent her adult life.

Erin was a poet, an artist and a humanitarian. She was also a natural gifted dancer. She was humble and her passions were raising her son and advocating for social-justice issues in her local community. She gave thousands of volunteer hours to the Catholic Worker’s Mary House, on E. Third St., the Holy Name Center for homeless men, at 10 Bleecker St., and Judson Memorial Church.

After the squat she lived in, 719 E. Sixth St., by Avenue C, was seriously damaged by a fire in 2006, Erin lived in Mary House, on and off, for about a year.

“She was a wonderful person who could fix most anything,” said Felton Davis, a longtime resident volunteer worker at Mary House. She eventually returned to the squat, which became legalized in a deal with the city that was hashed out at the end of the Giuliani administration and then approved under Bloomberg in 2002.

“All I know is that Erin was very independent and was not happy with the Bloomberg deal,” Davis recalled. “We saw her a few weeks ago at a memorial for one of our longtime workers, Roger O’Neil.”

Erin O’Connor, wearing N.Y.P.D.-style “Squat Department” patch, at right, at the October 2010 funeral march for fellow squatter activist Michael Shenker.

Erin was known as an avid cyclist. She also worked for a stint at Ray’s Candy Store on Avenue A, helping on the overnight shift.

“She rides her bike everywhere,” Asghar Ghahraman a.k.a. Ray marveled to The Villager once after Erin had biked way Downtown to fetch some important paperwork for him.

Howard Brandstein, executive director of the Sixth St. Community Center, an East Village grassroots organizing center, remembered her fondly.

“Great person, very friendly, very supportive, very smart, politically savvy,” he said. “She understood the nuances of the politics down here, which I liked.”

Survivors include her siblings, Matt (Tracey) O’Connor of Hopkinton, IA; John (Raquel) O’Connor of Idleyld Park, OR; Polly O’Connor of Dubuque; Martha (Rob) Leigh of Dubuque; niece and nephews, Cora (Mitch) Stoffel, Liam and Seamus O’Connor; her great-nephews, Connor, Elliott and George Stoffel; her aunt, Mary K. Hickey; and many cousins.

She was preceded in death by her parents and her sisters, Katie and Bridget O’Connor.

Private services and burial were in Dubuque on Tues., Aug. 8, with assistance from the Egelhof, Siegert & Casper Westview Funeral Home.

An Erin M O’Connor Memorial Fund has been established. Memorials may be sent to the Egelhof, Siegert & Casper Funeral Home, 2659 John F. Kennedy Road, Dubuque, IA, 52002. An online memorial is at http://egelhofsiegertcasper.com/book-of-memories/3017426/O-Connor-Erin/obituary.php

According to Davis, Judson Church reportedly may organize a local memorial for Erin.

“Hopefully,” he said, “there will also be a memorial here in New York City, where Erin’s many talents and longstanding comradeship in many causes were inspiring.”

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