Odell, Harry O.

Plot Location4B1
Given Name(s)Harry O. (Harold Oscar)
Place of BirthCairo, Egypt
Date of Birth (Eng)March 18, 1896
Date of Birth (Heb) 
Date of Death (Eng)December 19, 1975
Date of Death (Heb)15 Tevet 5736
Age at Death79
Hebrew Nameאהרון אברהם הכהן
Spouse’s NameSophie Rachel Weill Odell (4B2)
Father’s Name 
Mother’s Name 
Other SurnamesObodovsky
Marital StatusM
Maiden Name 
Title (e.g., Dr)M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire)
Religious Status (כ/ל/י)Cohen
Cause of Death 
Other Family DataSons: Jack, Albert & David Sydney (b. October 23, 1927, HK; d. April 18, 2013, Boca Raton, FL). Jack is married to Yvonne. Albert is married to Daisy. David was married to Molly Reuben and they had two children, Candice Farha Odell and Leon (“Lee”) Salim Odell. Candace is married to Julian Shapiro and they have one son, Raphael. Lee is married to Debra Sillaro and they have two children, Matthew Odell and Kate Lynn Odell.
Inscription (Eng)IN LOVING MEMORY
DIED 19TH DEC. 1975
Inscription (Heb)פה מצא מנוח הזקן אהרון אברהם הכהן נלבע בט׳ו טבת תשל״ו והיו ימיו ע״ט שנה
Inscription (Other)“MOSES & CO.” on vertical of 2nd tier at right
Historical“Harry Odell was emblematic of the peripatetic souls that continually landed in Hong Kong and made their mark here. Born Harry Obadofsky [sic] in Cairo in 1896 to Russian Jewish parents [his mother was Egyptian of Russian parentage] and educated in Shanghai, he worked as a tap dancer in Nagasaki before emigrating to the United States and fighting for the U.S. military in France during World War I. Following the war, he moved to Hong Kong, changed his surname to Odell [he changed his name while in the US], and married into a wealthy family of jewellers [the Weill family]. Odell cut his teeth in the import-export business [Getz Brothers] and as a stockbroker, and was also a volunteer with the naval reserve in Hong Kong. He was wounded during the defense of Hong Kong in 1941 and became a Japanese POW. Following the war, Odell started a film distribution business and was a major force behind the construction of the City Hall theater complex, putting his stamp on the cultural life of his adopted home.” (Provided by Jason Beerman from The Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography.)

“Harry Obadofsky [sic], the son of Russian Jewish parents [his mother was Egyptian of Russian parentage], was educated at St Francis Xavier school in Shanghai. He ran away from home at 16 and supported himself as a tap dancer in Nagasaki, Japan, before emigrating to the USA where he enlisted and served with the American armed forces in France in the First World War.

“In 1921 Obadofsky arrived in Hong Kong, changed his name to ‘Odell’ [he changed his name while in the US] and married Sophie Weill [he arrived here in 1919 and met and married his wife in 1921], whose family owned the prestigious Hong Kong jewellers Sennet Frères. They had three sons. Odell worked in an import-export firm, then as a stockbroker, and was a volunteer with the [Royal Hong Kong] Naval Reserve in Hong Kong, joining as a warrant officer in 1939. He fought in the defence of Hong Kong in 1941, was wounded, and was made prisoner of war by the Japanese.

“An affable gentleman, never without a large Cuban cigar, Odell started a film distribution business after the war. By persuading internationally acclaimed artists to perform in the colony he effectively became Hong Kong’s first impresario. Since suitable venues for the performing arts were scarce, he tirelessly lobbied the government for a permanent auditorium. As a result, the Hong Kong City Hall theatre complex was built. Odell’s MBE was awarded in recognition of his contribution to the cultural life of Hong Kong.” (Provided by Judy Green from The Dictionary of Hong Kong Biography.)

He received the M.B.E. on January 1, 1969, for “services to entertainment in Hong Kong”.

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