Samuel James Conner was born June 28, 1941. He left this place behind on October 6, 2020. His family knew him as Jim, his friends called him Sam. He was a bit of a flirt, a foodie before that was a thing, and an eager traveler. He spent his last few years fighting the criminal known as Dementia.
Sam offered anyone who cared to spend time with him many life lessons; to be honest, take responsibility, your life choices are yours -so choose carefully and be sure to own them, be self sufficient and take care of your family and those you love.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Samuel Stowell Conner and Roseanna (Rose Kowatch) Conner, his wife, Katherine (Kay Werner) Conner, and his brother-in-law, Lawrence Dowsett.
His remaining family are his sister, Lucretia Dowsett, children, Tina & Scott ConnerWellman, Samuel Eric & Heidi Conner, Troy James & Sherri Conner. His grandchildren, Sarah & Brandon Martinez, Alex & Samantha ConnerWellman, D’laney ConnerWellman, Jessa Delo, Makayla Delo and great-grandchildren Vayla & Opal.
His nephews and niece; Devin Dowsett, Melissa & Lee Kauffman, Marty & Wendy Dowsett.
In high school he was a gymnast. He liked to hitchhike here and there. As soon as possible, he joined the U.S. Navy and served his country for four years. He especially enjoyed the time he served in the Florida Keys. In later years he was a proud member of the VFW, American Legion, and the Moose.
He lived his life by his own rules, paving his own way and sometimes fighting authority. And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he did. His father often noted “Jim is as honest as the day is long, even when he knew his honesty would get him in trouble”.
With his sense of humor and stunning blue eyes he knew how to laugh, enjoy an afternoon at the river, or a Sunday with family at the lake. Family was what he valued most and became his most prized accomplishment.
Around 50 years ago, Sam and Kay took a ramshackle abandoned house on an overgrown acre that had never seen plumbing or electricity and worked on it every extra minute for over six months. They turned it into more than a house, they made it a home filled with ‘can do’ and ‘get it done’ values tied together with laughter and love. A home that still shelters and speaks of family today.
He drove school bus, worked at the prisons, moved on to the Ionia County Road Commission where he improved roads and plowed snow (in those years when this area saw more than enough of it), was head of the bargaining unit and retired as the sign foreman.
He worked side jobs repairing appliances to give his family vacations and his kids some of life’s wants. He taught them to swim, fish, love nature and travel, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in the first cars he set them up with; ’68 Firebird, ’67 Camaro, and ’69 Mustang which offered them early lessons of finance, making things work, and pride of ownership.
Jim enjoyed competition and was immensely proud of his children and grandchildren, spending Saturdays at wrestling tournaments, weekends at BBQ competitions, visiting his daughter in all the places she moved to, eating the fish Eric caught in good supply, and going to grandchildren’s football games, swim meets, softball games and golf matches.
He appreciated the simple things in life, a round of golf, an avid fan of Michigan State football & to a lesser degree basketball, competition quality BBQ, his cats, a motorcycle ride, sausage biscuits and gravy, western novels- movies- tv, state and national parks, and his favorite that never wavered – pineapple upside down cake. His regrets were few but included a couple used automobile purchases, as well as the timing of a train on a track in Smyrna.
Anyone fighting dementia may have gone quietly into the night – we’re fairly sure that in his mind, Sam was winning at poker, drinking scotch, and smoking a Camel cigarette while firmly debating his point of view on today's politics.
Samuel James Conner was that rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important – the simplicity of living a life with those you love.
The family would like to extend their appreciation to Four Seasons Adult Foster Care and Grace Hospice, Emma and her children, Lorraine, Michelle and all the staff who cared for him in his last months. And to his new friend he found there, Jim Britton.
Condolences and memorials may be sent in care of Tina ConnerWellman, 318 Pearl Street, Ionia, MI 48846 or expressed online at www.lehmanfuneralhomes.com.
His family will hold a private, graveside service.
If you’re so inclined, raise a glass in his name at your local VFW, American Legion, Moose lodge, or just while your sitting and enjoying the company of family and friends.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Samuel James Conner, please visit our floral store.