Cover photo for COL. Thomas James O'Donnell, USA (Ret.)'s Obituary
COL. Thomas James O'Donnell, USA (Ret.) Profile Photo

COL. Thomas James O'Donnell, USA (Ret.)

February 16, 1956 — May 9, 2023


COL. Thomas James O'Donnell, USA (Ret.)

COL Thomas James O'Donnell, USA (Ret.), 67, of Charleston, South Carolina, husband of Shelly Lynne Adams O'Donnell, entered into eternal rest Tuesday, May 9, 2023. His Memorial Service will be held Friday, May 19, 2023 in Summerall Chapel, The Citadel, 171 Moultrie Street at 11:00 am.  Burial will be held later in Arlington National Cemetery. Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc. Downtown Chapel.
Tom was an honored and accomplished soldier; a valued corporate executive; an amazing athlete; an extraordinarily funny and kind person; a man of God; and, above all to him, a wonderful family man.  

Tom was born February 16, 1956, in Portsmouth, Ohio, son of the late Daniel Francis O'Donnell and Margaret Catherine Stout O'Donnell.  He was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, received Master Degrees from Central Michigan University and the National War College, and held a Masters in Military Arts. 

Tom retired from the U.S. Army in 2004 after more than 25 years of active service.  He graduated from the Army’s Airborne and Ranger Schools, served on the Army General Staff, and was selected, in a national competition, to be a Congressional Fellow for the Department of Defense.  He commanded units at multiple levels including a brigade and the Task Force Shield Iraq, comprised of 7 battalions and over 15,000 local nationals, protecting over 250 facilities throughout Iraq.  Tom excelled in leading and inspiring others, and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit, and other decorations for his military accomplishments.

Upon retiring from the Army, COL O’Donnell joined Exxon Mobile as an executive.  He worked for Exxon for over 16 years, in business roles with increasing responsibilities and complexities.  He helped Exxon to set up operations and facilities in Iraq and implemented a program there that improved the educational infrastructure, medical facilities, and water availability in many communities.

Tom was also an incredible athlete; he ranked first in his West Point class in physical fitness and shattered the record for the academy’s arduous cadet indoor obstacle course.  He was a star of West Point’s Division I lacrosse team and, later, a Golden Gloves boxing champion for Texas and Oklahoma. 

Throughout his life of military, business and athletic successes, Tom was just a joy to be with.  He maintained an amazing sense of humor, famed for hilarious antics and pranks, and for a superb talent for telling jokes.  Of the most importance to Tom, he remained a kind, selfless man of God who embodied the concepts of gentleness, charity, and family.   Folks who worked with him for years, often in trying circumstances, never saw him angered or spiteful, and were impressed by how he improved the lives of those around him.  He mentored countless younger Army officers and, before and after retiring, he worked with many charitable and church organizations; he was on the board of the U.S. Field Artillery Association; the Boot Campaign (improving the lives of veterans); the West Point Lacrosse Alumni; and the Charleston Veterans 5k.  He was most devoted, though, to his family.   Tom was a loving and beloved husband of 41 years to the love of his life, Shelly.  Together, Tom and Shelly raised two children, Adam and Mary, who grew up with Tom’s and Shelly’s love and the shining examples that they set, and are now two extraordinary adults. 

COL O’Donnell is survived by his wife Shelly; his children: MAJ Adam Thomas O'Donnell (Lindsay) of Elgin, OK, and Mary Margaret O'Donnell of Charleston, SC; two grandchildren: Payton O'Donnell and Austin O'Donnell; and his siblings: Dan O’Donnell of Whidbey Island, WA, Peggy O'Donnell (Ken Peterson) of Seattle, WA, Joe O'Donnell of Tucson, AZ, Judith Kinsella (Vince) of Charlotte, NC, Cathy O'Donnell (Kathy Mattioda) of Conestoga, PA, Bob O’Donnell (Paola) of Prescott, AZ, and Rose O'Donnell-Sloan (Joe) of Denver, CO.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Daniel and Margaret, and his brother Michael.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Tom’s memory to the Boot Campaign for veterans (<> ) or to Saint Theresa’s Society of the Little Flower (<> ).
A memorial message may be sent to the family by visiting our website at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of COL. Thomas James O'Donnell, USA (Ret.), please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Funeral Service

Friday, May 19, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Summerall Chapel, The Citadel

171 Moultrie St, Charleston, SC 29409

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