William T. Connor
1933 – 2017
William T. Connor, 83, of Watertown, passed away peacefully Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, at Watertown Regional Medical Center.
He was born April 11, 1933, to L.J. and Lydia (Ponath) Connor. Bill, a Watertown native, has been actively involved in the community for decades. St. Bernard’s Boy Scout Troop 44 gave Bill a first taste of that involvement. His work career began at the Watertown Daily Times in 1945, at the age of 11. His uncle, Gary Ponath, a longtime WDT newspaper employee, needed carriers. At the time, a special permit from school was required . Bill then worked as a pressman, became the head pressman and spent the last 10 years in the composing room. He worked with three different presses and three generations of the Clifford family, spanning 51 years, before retiring. On March 15, 1996, he received a state of Wisconsin citation from the Assembly.
Bill left high school and joined the United States Navy in 1951 . He was a seaman, an airedale or aviation mechanic, attached to Fighter Squadron 71, stationed at Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island. He spent three years there and a year (1953-54) on an aircraft carrier, the USS Bennington. Once aboard, he cruised to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, followed by nine months in the North Atlantic. He was onboard when an explosion hit, but was not injured. Bill was honorably discharged in May 1955. Shortly thereafter, he was recruited to join The American Legion (TAL) Pitterle-Beaudoin Post 189 and served in various offices, as well as placing flags in cemeteries for Memorial Day. He became commander in 1960, sharing the year with wife, Mary, who was elected auxiliary president. They were the only married couple to serve in the same year.
Bill was a member of the Firing Squad/Honor Guard, and was currently serving as sergeant-at-arms. He is also a past Jefferson County commander and 2nd District sergeant-at-arms. He accumulated several thousand volunteer hours between the Madison VA Center and “Woods,” which later became the Zablocki VA, and served as TAL vets’ rep, visiting nursing homes. A great example of “Veterans Still Serving,” Bill felt it an honor to serve on the Honor Guard at veterans’ funerals. He was part of a team who distributed more than 50 American flags from Post 189 to Watertown High School to replace old flags and fill additional classrooms in the new building. On March 13, 2004, Bill received a Dedicated Service Award for participation in the presentation of military burial honors to fallen comrades, to community events and the professional appearance reflected to TAL Post 189. Bill was named Legionnaire of the Year in 2008 and just celebrated 60 years of membership.
Bill marched in seven national American Legion conventions with the Oconomowoc American Legion Color Guard. He is a 60-year member of the 40 et 8, La Societe des Quarente Hommes et Huit Chevaux (the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses), begun as an elite membership and camaraderie for leaders of The American Legion. Bill is a past chef de gar (commander) of Jefferson County Voiture 750 and currently served as the chairman of the Flags to Schools for First Graders program. Bill was a member of Beaudoin-Koehler-Draeger Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3709, Watertown, as well as the Military Order of the Cootie of the United States (MOC). Membership in MOC is in recognition of outstanding service to the VFW and its programs.
On Nov. 13, 2005, he was awarded “Your Service Made A Difference” certificate of recognition by the post and auxiliary. A member of Bartelme-Schwefel Marine Corps League Detachment 349, he was currently serving as chaplain. Only six are allowed to become honorary Marines per year. Bill was presented with a life membership on Nov. 4, 1995. He and Mary received the Marine Corps League Distinguished Service Award on Nov. 15, 1997. He was also a longtime member of AMVETS Riedemann-Thompson Post 35, Watertown. Bill was a 28-year member of the USS Bennington Association, having attended 27 of the 28 ship reunions, missing one due to heart surgery. He and Mary received the USS Bennington Certificate of Appreciation for lending a hand with the reunions at the Sacramento, California, reunion in 2005.
Bill joined the Watertown Auxiliary Police force in 1957, serving 52 years, the last 30 as captain. Then Chief Charles McGee presented Bill with the Watertown Police Department Exemplary Service Award for 50 years of selfless and dedicated service to the citizens of Watertown and the Watertown Police Department, and on retirement received a plaque at Riverfest from current Chief Tim Roets on Aug. 9, 2009.
Bill served as a church usher for over 50 years and is a past president of the Watertown Turners. He has been a member of the Fourth of July parade committee for over 50 years, which was formerly an American Legion committee, now independent. He and Mary were also honored as honorary parade marshals. Bill was the first to have the downtown bridge named after him at River Days, Aug. 7, 1982. He helped with Meals on Wheels and had been a volunteer for the American Red Cross blood banks, as well as a proud blood donor, tallying just over 21 gallons.
A member of Watertown Elks Lodge 666 since 1974, Bill was the recipient of numerous awards over the years: Elk of the Year Service Award, 1974; Elks National Service Commission Veterans Remembrance Report Lodge Chairman Award, 1982-83; Elks Recognition for Service Award, 1972-84; P.E.R. (Past Exalted Ruler) Award, 1994-95; Grand Lodge Order of Elks, 1996-97 Grand Exalted Rulers Award to local lodge; Elks Guiding America FORWARD!, 1997; Elks National Veterans Service Commission Certificate of Appreciation for unselfishly working with and for nations’ vets, 2002; Grand Exalted Ruler’s Outstanding Service Commendation/Chairman Veterans Service, 2004; and Elk of the Year, 2004-05.
Bill currently served as the veterans’ rep, providing small gifts of remembrance at various holidays to the vets at Golden Living and Marquardt Memorial Manor in Watertown, Shorehaven in Oconomowoc and Alden Estates in Jefferson. He has been the representative of the Elks National Service Commission since 1981. Bill and Mary were named Outstanding Community Leaders by Jefferson County Chapter ROA (Reserve Officers Association) in 1991, and honored as Citizens of the Year by the Dodge County Executive Law Enforcement Association in 1997.
They received a Certificate of Appreciation for faithful service as auxiliary police officers from Calvary Baptist Church at Blue and White Sunday in 2005. Bill graduated with the class of 2001, through the passage of 1999 Wisconsin Act 73, Watertown Unified School District Policy 5243 and Board Resolution 6586, receiving a Watertown High School Veteran diploma, accompanied by a standing ovation from the class and attendees, on June 2, 2001.
On May 3, 2014, Bill, accompanied by his daughter, took the Stars & Stripes Honor Flight. He felt it an undeserved privilege to take the flight, often sharing the wonderful experiences of his perfect day in Washington, D.C.
Bill Connor and Mary Jaeger were married on Sept. 6, 1952. Mary passed away on Feb. 2, 2006. He is survived by one daughter, Mary (Tom) Petrie of Watertown; two grandchildren, Matthew Petrie of Watertown and Rebecca (Mark) Hoffman of Watertown; a sister, Mary Brenegan of Las Cruces, New Mexico; nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents.
A Mass of Christian burial, with full military honors by American Legion Post 189, will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, Watertown. Visitation will be held Tuesday from 4-9 p.m. at Schmutzler-Vick Funeral Home, 500 Welsh Road, Watertown. Visitation will also be held from 10 a.m. until the time of service Wednesday at the church. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be given to St. Bernard’s Cemetery or decorating fund or St. Mark’s organ fund. Schmutzler-Vick Funeral Home of Watertown is serving the family.
The family would like to thank the 2 North floor staff and doctors for the compassionate and attentive care given in Bill’s last days, friends who visited and joked with him, and the prayers for and kind words expressed during a difficult time.
The Traditional Irish Blessing . . . May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, And the rains fall soft upon your fields. And, until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
History of Watertown, Wisconsin