Steven O'Connor worked in body shop in his hometown of Lansing, MI. Born in 1919, O'Connor was not able to enlist for World War II service due to a stomach condition. He married his wife, Helen, in the early 1940s, and dedicated his professional life to fixing cars. And for leisure he bought himself a hot-rod.
"Being from Michigan, we loved Fords," Steven O'Connor explained.
Lansing winters are cold. Their winters send shivers down the couple's spine when they think about it. For five months out of the year the average low is below freezing with an average of four feet of snow a year.
Helen O'Connor remembers how her husband felt when he came home from work during those frigid days in the mechanic shop.
"His hands and knuckles would hurt," she explained.
The two had a decision to make: stay in Michigan or move to Florida (California was simply too far away for them). The O'Connors had small children at the time, so the decision was made with the whole family in mind.
"We just hated it [winters] so bad that we had to go," Steven O'Connor said.
Just like that, the family got an RV and moved south to start a new life.
They first landed in Lakeland, but the town did not suit their sensibility. "We just knew right away that we didn't like it," Helen O'Connor said.
They decided to get back into their mobile home and drive until they found a place that felt like home. They stopped in St. Petersburg and never left. That was in 1950.
Plenty has changed since their first arrival. Steven O'Connor got a job with a mechanic on 4th Street South, while Helen worked as a seamstress. The two eventually bought a house in Pinellas Park and raised their two daughters and son. Steven O'Connor fished the gulf and helped his son contract race cars. Helen O'Connor looked after the children and sewed in her spare time.
They were, in short, content.
They attribute their longevity, happiness and health to the way they live.
"We drink strong whisky," Steven O'Connor joked.
In fact the couple, who are into their 90s, are full of verve. They poke fun at each other, socialize with their neighbors and partake in games like bingo.
Steven and Helen O'Connor believe that their blessed life was made possible by one singular decision they made 60 years ago.