Bill Connor R.I.P.

Posted: Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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Bill Connor died this week and I was shocked at the news.
I just knew that even though the leukemia he fought off before had returned, he would lick it again.
I first met Bill Connor 8 or 9 years ago. He called me at Kelo wondering if I’d be interested in featuring his new bus business, Prairie Coach Trailways in Dell Rapids, on Lund at Large.  He said he could bring one by the station for us to check out.  I couldn’t believe his enthusiasm over BUSES of all things so I said sure. Soon a huge motor coach pulled up across from the TV station. The door opened and there sat this smiling guy at the wheel inviting me and my camera guy aboard. Bill Connor said his goal was to live to age 50.He made it by just a few months.It was quite a bus..decked out like one of those expensive motorhomes that the NASCAR drivers all have but this one was designed to accommodate 20 or so people. Bill gave us the guided tour and talked excitedly about all the amenities and outlining plans to build up a whole fleet of high-end busses to accommodate all sorts of transportation needs from political campaigns to fall foliage trips to New England.  
During our interview as he drove us around Sioux Falls, I learned that his love of busses began as a child in St. Paul when he rode the city transit system daily.  That passion led him to give up a successful career as president of a credit card bank to live his dream of owning and operating a luxury bus line. Dell Rapids was chosen because it was close to Colton, hometown of his wife, Nola.
Bill’s mood became more somber when he told me about his son, Jaran, who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time for inoperable brain cancer. To make Jaran’s  long and frequent trips to the Twin Cities for treatment more pleasant and comfortable, they went in style aboard one of the nice busses. That inspired Bill to form a nonprofit corporation named Angel Bus; coordinating travel for terminally ill children in luxury motor coaches around the country.
Just three weeks after Jaran’s death in 2004, Bill, himself, was diagnosed with leukemia and was pretty much told to get his affairs in order.  A year or so later, I got another call from him wondering if I’d be interested in telling our viewers about the medical procedures that saved his life. But when we met at the Avera Cancer Institute he seemed more interested in the plight of other cancer patients than himself. He told of his concern for those who were being forced by their insurance companies to often travel long distances for treatment in other cities when the very best care was available right here. He also asked if I’d interview Dr. Kelly McCaul..the cancer specialist who harvested Bill’s own stem cells; a very specialized procedure which, along with Bill’s unwavering faith in God,  led to remission.  
Shortly before my retirement, Bill gave me a call to offer well wishes and say thanks for the stories we’d done with him. He even offered me a job hosting some of his bus tours. When we met for lunch I inquired about how he was feeling. As always, he thanked me for asking and hinted that his old enemy, leukemia, was itchin’ for a fight again. In spite of Bill’s ceaseless optimism his battle ended last Tuesday afternoon. He never really got to enjoy his dream landscape and pond constructed at his home by the River of Hope Foundation in appreciation for Bill’s own unselfish generosity in helping people in need.
In all my years, I’ve never met anyone more considerate of others or more open and passionate about things than Bill Connor.
He was one of the good guys and a lot of people, including me, are really going to miss him.

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