As noted in The Circuit Rider, the newsletter of Portland’s First United Methodist Church, Dr. William Connor passed away last Sunday after a battle with cancer. Oregon lost a giant that day.
Many people will spend time between now and the memorial (which is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 14th at 2pm at FUMC) chronicling his successful and much honored medical carrier. His biography on the Oregon Health Sciences University website, where he long served as a Professor of Medicine, states:
Dr. Connor`s special interest is in atherosclerosis, nutrition and lipid metabolism. He received his medical degree from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 1950. He completed his residency training in Internal Medicine at San Joaquin General Hospital in Stockton, Ca., Veterans Administration Hospital in Iowa City, and at the University of Iowa. Dr. Connor completed his fellowships in Internal Medicine at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Iowa City, and in Pathology at Oxford University. (Photo credit: OHSU.)
My experience with Bill Connor, however, was not in the medical world but through our shared faith. Bill and Sonja Connor, M.S., R.D., (Bill’s wife) were both members of First United Methodist Church during my tenure there as the director of community outreach.
I had enormous interaction with both Sonja and Bill and grew over time to both respect and love them for their work, for the strong personal commitment they together made to building up the Kingdom of God, and for the ways they touched so many people through their professional lives. Liz and I were honored that it the midst of such busy lives Bill and Sonja were able to attend our wedding.
Dr. Connor was a tireless advocate for social justice rooted in the Gospel teachings of Jesus. Together with Sonja (now the board chair of the Goose Hollow Family Shelter), he worked to alleviate homelessness and poverty by supporting both social service agencies and public policy proposals meant to help change the conditions that allow poverty and homelessness to grow in the first place.
Bill and Sonja Connor were two of the strongest voices in favor of First United Methodist Church declaring itself to be a “Reconciling Congregation” – which means to become welcoming of gays and lesbians. When Basic Rights Oregon presented the congregation in 2000 with a “Profiles in Courage Award” for the church’s commitment to gay and lesbian equality it was Dr. Connor who went to the gala dinner to accept the recognition.
As the chair of the congregation's Church and Society Committee, Dr. Connor pushed First United Methodist Church to take early stands against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
With Oregon legend Mark O. Hatfield, Oregon’s one time governor and longtime Republican U.S. Senator, and former Republican Oregon Secretary of State Norma Paulus, Dr. Connor launched initiatives to rid Oregon of the death penalty. As a physician and as a Christian, Bill always fought hard against a legal punishment he saw as cruel and fraught with flaws.
Bill showed a particular kindness in 2005 when I was diagnosed with a rare tumor. He took charge of my medical care, made the appointments I would need with specialists and the surgeon, and was there in the ICU when I woke up after surgery. Because of the team of medical professionals he surrounded me with my recovery was never in doubt.
The twins and I were fortunate to see Bill just three weeks before he passed away. He was, as always, concerned more about the world than about himself.
On this Sunday, All Saints Day, it is worth stopping to pause and remember all William Connor’s contributions. Please keep the family, friends, co-workers, and congregation he leaves behind in your prayers.