JAMES GORDON MCCONNELL, SR.
November 29, 1918 - February 9, 2013
Memorial services for James Gordon McConnell, Sr. will be at 10:00 A.M. on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at the First United Methodist Church of Canyon with Rev. Kevin Deckard, associate pastor of Polk Street United Methodist Church in Amarillo, and the Rev. Rick Enns, senior pastor, officiating.
Mr. McConnell died of congestive heart failure on February 9, 2013, at Hospice Care of the Southwest, Amarillo. He was born to Roger S. And Willie C. (Hopkins) McConnell on November 29, 1918, in the family home five miles west of Pampa. J.G. McConnell was the eldest of three boys. His younger brothers, both deceased, were John Edwin and Glenn Roger.
The family farmed and ranched in Gray and Carson Counties. J.G. went to work at an early age, sharecropping with mules, primitive tractors, and helping tend the family herd of polled Hereford Cattle. He grew up on the frontier stories of his great uncle and aunt, Henry and Fanny Lovett, and attended the funeral of Charles Goodnight. His uncle, Skinny Adams, was a range boss on the JA Ranch.
He saw the oil boom of the 1920's and survived the Dust Bowl, giving a vivid personal account of "Black Sunday," April 14, 1935. In high school, he excelled in F.F.A. livestock judging and in state wide speech tournaments. He attended junior college at New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, when the cadet corps drilled on horseback. He did his Bachelor's work in animal husbandry at Oklahoma State. His studies were interrupted by World War II, and he served with distinction in the United States Army, rising in the ranks from draftee and buck private to first lieutenant in the Medical Corps.
When he returned to Pampa, he met a beautiful high school teacher name Lee Una Sullivan on a blind date and married her in Fort Worth on November 8, 1947. They farmed and ranched in Crowley County, Colorado until 1959. Their only child, James Gordon McConnell, Jr. was born in 1950.
After selling the farm, J.G. returned to Stillwater to complete his final semester for his Bachelor's at OSU. He then completed a Master's in Science Education at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado and became a science teacher at La Junta Junior High School in La Junta, Colorado. A devoted teacher, he soon became head of the science department. He was a lay leader at the First United Methodist Church and a dedicated volunteer and Key Man with the Explorer Scout group, and the Koshare Indian Dancers in La Junta. In the summers, he took geology field study courses with Dr. Richard Burroughs of Adams State. They floated the Colorado River and explored Canyonlands National Park and other places in the Southwest. Lee often went along on these adventures.
He retired from teaching in the mid-1980's and was able to spend more time with Lee, friends and family in "God's Country" at Pearl Lakes Trout Club, near Creede, Colorado. J.G. and Lee were also members of Denver-based Ports of Call Travel Club and traveled more than 200,000 miles together, visiting Mexico, China, Japan, Bali, Western Europe, the Middle East, and seven countries in Africa. As J.G. was fond of saying, they "had a great run together."
In 1995, Lee and J.G. moved to Canyon and joined the First United Methodist Church. They were members of the Crusaders Sunday School Class and developed many warm friendships in the church and community. J.G. continued working in his later years as president of R.S. McConnell, Inc., with properties in Gray and Carson Counties, Texas. He supported several ministries and gave generous gratuities to college students working in the eateries of Canyon and Amarillo, helping them, in his words, "climb the ladder."
J.G. lost Lee, the love of his life, after 62 years of marriage in November 2009. Tenaciously independent, he continued to live at home for the next three years, aided by friends from church and the neighborhood and most especially, his "gal Friday" Becky and her husband, Kevin Deckard. He often said, "I thank the Lord every day for my walk on this earth." Those who knew and loved J.G., thank the Lord for him.
J.G. McConnell was the elder of the McConnell and Hopkins families, esteemed by nieces and nephews and cousins of multiple generations. He is survived by his son, Gordon and his wife, Betty; held in loving memory by Betty's son, Brett Loos, and his family; sister, Lillie Grace; and his sister-in-law, Laverne Sullivan Brewster, of Austin.
The family suggests memorials be to First United Methodist Church or the educational institution of your choice.