John Cavanaugh O’Leary (’57)

John C. O’Leary
John Cavanaugh O’Leary passed away on Wednesday, the 24th of June 2020, while under the loving, inpatient care of Houston Hospice. He was 88 years of age. He was born on the 29th of April 1932, and was a lifelong resident of Houston.
John grew up attending St. Anne’s Catholic Church and School where he was an altar server as a child. He graduated from St. Thomas High School where more than once he had his knuckles rapped by the nuns. While at St. Thomas, he was active in sports and was the quarterback on the football team. He completed his undergraduate degree in Geology at night school at the University of Houston while studying at home with his one-year old daughter Nina pestering him for attention and pulling his homework onto the floor. During the day and after graduation, John worked for his father at the family’s oilfield tool service company, HOMCO, where he learned the basics of the oil industry, including directional drilling, which was then in its infancy. He co-founded oil and gas exploration company Intercoastal Operating Company in 1960, focusing on the inland Texas coast.
John was proud of his Irish heritage and was known for his humor and Irish charm. He was a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and was chair of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for several years at a time when it was properly held downtown on the actual day – March 17th.
John was an avid golfer. At times, he would take his son Cavanaugh, who occasionally learned some colorful words after watching his father hit the ball. John still enjoyed watching golf on TV once he was no longer able to play. He was active with the University of Houston football program during the Bill Yeoman years and watched every home game from a skybox in the Astrodome that he shared with a number of close friends, sometimes bringing his daughter Alisa – Go Cougs!
As a young adult, John coached high school football in underserved schools and neighborhood parks. For many years he was involved with Meals on Wheels.
John is predeceased by his parents, George Patrick O’Leary and Katherine Cavanaugh O’Leary; his brother, George Michael O’Leary and his sister, Katherine O’Leary Rogerson. He is survived by his wife, Frances Sharp O’Leary; his children, Nina O’Leary Zilkha and her husband Michael, daughter, Alisa Erin O’Leary, and son, John Cavanaugh O’Leary, Jr. and his wife Blanca; his stepdaughter, Frances Haden Alexander and her husband Ben; his grandchildren, Lucinda Louise Francis and her husband Andrew, Daniel Michael Zilkha and his wife Jane, John Cavanaugh O’Leary III, and Wesley Haden Alexander; three great-granddaughters, Cecilia Anna Francis, Imogen Cristina Francis, and Genevieve Leila Zilkha; and a number of nieces and nephews and their children.
John’s family would like to give special thanks to his wonderful and devoted caregivers Donna Davis, Mary Rodriguez, Valerie Rodriguez, Sofia Azuike, and Mabel Omagorosire, and Doctor Amy Mynderse and Maddie Bunch RN.
The family will gather for a private interment on Monday, the 29th of June, at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.
Serving as honorary pallbearers are John Cavanaugh O’Leary Jr, John Cavanaugh O’Leary III, Michael Eliahou Selim Zilkha, Ben Mortimer Alexander, Daniel Michael Zilkha, and Wesley Haden Alexander.
In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to the St. Anne’s School Foundation, 2140 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77098.
Please visit Mr. O’Leary’s online memorial tribute at where memories and words of comfort and condolence may be shared electronically with his family.

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