In obituaries at the time of his death, it was common to read that O'Connor lived a life dedicated to his family, Catholic education and young people in the Dubuque area. His 47 years as a teacher, coach, guidance counselor and dean at WAHLERT HIGH SCHOOL was centered around the students he worked with every day. He started his career at Wahlert when the school first opened in 1959. He began as an English teacher, coach and physical education instructor. Later, he was a guidance counselor and dean.
O'Connor began the boys' and girls' tennis programs at Wahlert and received multiple Mississippi Valley Conference coaching honors. In 1997, he was named National Tennis Coach of the Year. Through his career at Wahlert, Bernie coached sophomore and freshman basketball, sophomore football and varsity tennis.
O'Connor was an accomplished referee. With his longtime officiating partner, Gene Glab, he traveled eastern Iowa for thirty years and refereed the Iowa High School Boys Basketball state tournament for thirteen years. He was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Officials Hall of Fame in 1990.