A Des Moines man who dedicated nearly seven decades of his life to serving his neighbors one way or the other died Saturday afternoon at the age of 86. John Connors represented east Des Moines in the Iowa House for 32 years. He only retired at the urging of his longtime house clerk, who also happened to be his wife, Marge.
Mr. Connors served in the Navy from 1943-1946 in World War II. He served as the President of Local 4, representing fellow Des Moines firefighters for 20 years. He recently told me how disappointing politics has become in a red versus blue America. He longed for the days lawmakers really got to know each other and their spouses, the days leaders looked for common ground, instead of the eight-second television soundbite that would eviscerate the other side. Even in his eighties, he still looked like a man who could whoop some butt. And he knew some lawmakers on both sides could use that. You couldn't take the fight out of this former boxer.
My wife and I visited Mr. Connors Thursday. And even though he wasn't eating more than a bite or two a day and drinking more than a few sips of juice, he smiled at us, firmly grasped my hand from his bed and whispered, "Hi, Dave" and went on to shake his head about all the attention Rush Limbaugh is getting these days. His humor never left him, despite all the discomfort his body was giving him.
Mrs. Connors tell me there's one word she would use to describe her husband: "loyalty". She said he was loyal to his family, his neighbors, the people he represented, the Iowa Democratic Party and his church. Not necessarily in that order. The Connors would have been married 64 years next month.
Mr. Connors, who has battled numerous health ailments the past several years, passed away in hospice care around 4pm with his wife, as always, by his side. He is donating his body to science, so there will be no funeral. His family is still making plans for a public memorial service at First Christian Church in Des Moines, their worship home for many years, likely on Wednesday.