TEGA CAY — About 150 or more people gathered for nearly two hours Thursday to swap stories on Les Conner. To hear it, they could have carried on much longer.
And to hear it, Conner wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“Les always loved a party,” said friend and Tega Cay City Councilman Stephen Perkins.
Conner, 67, died Dec. 21. Elected officials past and present paid respect Thursday to the former City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem, who also served numerous civic roles in Tega Cay. Perkins and Councilman Ron Kirby both served alongside Conner. Both spoke about their friend Thursday.
“He didn’t give you an answer without thought to what he was saying,” Kirby said.
Conner sat on the council from 2005 to 2010. He was Mayor Pro Tem in 2006 and 2007.
Kirby fondly recalls long council meetings and longer conversations in between, where the two volleyed ideas and “rebuilt Tega Cay a hundred times and started it over.”
Kirby recalls Conner putting up campaign signs for his friend and displaying a dry wit with residents who weren’t as supportive.
Kirby also remembers the immediacy of Conner, who often recruited engineers from his North Carolina State alma mater, calling a recess before a vote to paint Tega Cay’s water tower Tarheel blue.
Conner often was a intermediary among strong personalities on council. Kirby said he and Conner didn’t always agree.
“We always understood one another, and we always respected one another,” Kirby said.
Conner’s life was one of service. He served the Navy in Vietnam, and he served his grandchildren brownies for breakfast if they asked.
He worked at a Shelby, N.C., plant for 34 years where former employees say it wasn’t unusual for Conner to leave the boardroom and head to the poorest elementary school in the county, where he’d tutor students.
He served Tega Cay through various roles with the Tega Cay Area Chamber of Commerce, Catawba Regional Council of Governments, Tega Cay Lions Club and other groups.
And if the service at a restaurant wasn’t to his liking, he’d make note of that, too.
“The man didn’t sleep,” said Wayne Hall, who worked with and for Conner before his time in Tega Cay. “If you add the time we waste sleeping that he spent being productive, he had to have been in his 90s.”
Conner’s life was a series of stories. There’s the Thanksgiving turkey he cooked in a, presumably clean, trash can and the coconut pie that didn’t turn out as well.
There’s the 48-hour bomb scare at a plant he ran before coming to Tega Cay. Conner had at least two major run-ins with genealogy, leading to a common “cousin” nickname from his wife Kay’s family and Kirby.
Conner wasn’t the one your wallet wanted giving the pep talk before a charitable group pledge card came to passing.
He was, friends say, the one you’d want needling you for hours in the body shop after buying a classic truck with a less-than-appealing paint job.
Mostly, friends of the man who so enjoyed people remember him for the way they were treated. Whether on endless runs for obscure auto parts or in a council seat listening to concerns, Conner cared for people when they came in contact.
Which is how, Perkins said, Conner embodied what Tega Cay should be.
“He was loved by many,” Perkins said, “and he truly lived the good life.”
John Marks • 803-831-8166