John J.H. Connors

John J.H. Connors – “The Major” – who died on May 6 answered the prayers of a group of Ottawa pro-lifers when he came into their offices in the 1980s asking how he could help.

Karen Murawsky, a long-time Ottawa pro-life activist and former head of Campaign Life Coalition’s public affairs office in the nation’s capital, told The Interim, that the Western Conference of the Grey Nuns wanted to help Alliance for Life by funding provincial educational officers, who would mostly go to schools to talk to students about abortion. Connors called her “out of the blue” saying he was returning to Ottawa after retiring and asked how he could assist the pro-life cause. “The timing was perfect,” said Murawsky. He became Action Life’s educational liaison officer.

Connors was raised in eastern Ontario and served in the army for 32 years, beginning in 1934 with the militia in Ottawa before eventually transferring to the Medical Corps and becoming a field ambulance officer in Europe in World War II, including the Normandy landings. On one occasion, in violation of the Geneva Convention, German troops riddled his clearly marked ambulance with bullets; on March 31, 1945, the Canada Gazette noted that King George VI recognized Connors’ “gallant and distinguished services.”

He would go on to serve in various assignments in Belgium, England, the United States, and Canada before settling at the army’s surgeon general’s offices in Ottawa. When he retired from the military, he became a health care educator and consultant in Manitoba and nationally, serving as in such posts as assistant director of hospital services for the Manitoba Hospital Commission, president and CEO of Misericordia General Hospital, and chairman of the board of the Catholic Hospital Association of Canada.

His background in the health care system and the authority that wearing a uniform gave him made Connors a perfect fit to educate students about pro-life. Murawsky said, “he appeared haughty, but was very humble.” She recalls a time when students were sitting jumbled on the floor in the gym; the disorder bothered The Major, but he carried on because the important thing was getting out the pro-life message.

Murawsky said Connors was a committed Catholic, whose faith and personality led him to “never stop” doing all he could for the pro-life cause. He worked with various pro-life groups including Action Life, Alliance for Life, the Coalition for the Protection of Human Life, and Campaign Life Coalition. He sought out ways to help and “did anything we asked him to do.” He would recruited others to help, met MPs, ran pro-life workshops, and educated students. “He was a gem,” said Murawsky.

Connors was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Doreen, and two daughters, Maureen and Dorothy. He is survived by sons John and Michael, and six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He completed but did not publish his memoirs, The Story of an Unremarkable Canadian, which concludes, “I will be content if those who knew me can but say: He served his God not always well, but always with love.”