O'Kon, James A.

O'KON, James A.

James A. O'Kon (Jim) passed away in the afternoon of Monday, September 12, 2022, in Budd Terraces at Wesley Woods, Atlanta, Georgia. He was 85 years of age, and is survived by his wife of 35 years, Mrs. Carol Anne O'Kon.

He was predeceased by his parents, a brother, Michael O'Kon; and a sister, Candy O'Kon Schlarb. He is survived by his son, Sean O'Kon; a daughter, Shannon (Michael) O'Kon Francklin; one granddaughter, Kira (Ethan) Francklin Smittle; and three sisters, Jan Lewandowski, Mary Stimmel and Colleen (Clark) Ramirez. He is also survived by many beloved nieces and nephews.

Mr. O'Kon was born in Buffalo, New York but relocated to Marietta where his father worked for the Bell bomber plant. His playground was Kennesaw Mountain, where he collected rusted Civil War armament, leading to his passion for history and eventually to archaeology.

In 1955, he graduated from Sylvan Hills High School, then from Georgia Tech in 1960, and later from New York University with a master's degree. At Georgia Tech, not only was he cartoonist for student paper, The Technique, art editor for the student literary magazine, The Rambler, but he also played on the football team at Georgia Tech.

Jim and his family moved to New York City for him to be able to work with Lev Zetlin, an engineer he revered. While there, he designed the Roosevelt Tramway over the East River and worked on the New York World's Fair of 1964. He returned to Atlanta to open a branch office for the company and in 1977 bought the firm, expanding it to become a national award-winning company with such noteworthy designs as The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.

As a young man in New York, he and his family lived for a year both in Spain and in Mexico where he became fascinated with the ruins of the Maya. This fascination continued into later in his life and he and his wife, Carol, traveled throughout Mexico to explore many Maya sites together. He discovered the longest suspension bridge in the ancient world over the Usumacinta River at the Maya city of Yaxchilan in southern Mexico. This discovery led to an article in National Geographic Magazine, a documentary on the History Channel and his induction into the renowned Explorers Club.

He published a book about the bridge and other discoveries of Maya engineering, The Lost Secrets of Maya Technology. He has also published a book about the agronomy of the Maya titled, Corn, Cotton and Chocolate: How the Maya Changed the World.

In addition to his passionate interest in the Maya, he traveled to Ernest Hemingway's favorite bars and restaurants in Spain, Paris, and Key West. As a result of this research, his most recent publication was a biography of Ernest Hemingway, Sitting in Hemingway's Chair.

Thanks to his passions and discoveries, Mr. O'Kon's memory will live on not only through friends, family, and fellow Maya enthusiasts, but also in his books.

Please join us in celebrating the life of such an outstanding man.

Memorial Service will be held at H.M. Patterson & Son Arlington Chapel on Thursday, September 22, at 11:00 AM.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations in Jim O'Kon's name to the American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org.

Funeral Home Information

H.M. Patterson & Son-Arlington Chapel