Born on September 8 1932, the eldest son of a family of nine, John was brought up in the townland of Ballougry on the Londonderry/Donegal border and attended the local Ballougry Primary School. When he left school at 14 years of age he joined the staff of the local ‘All Cash Stores’ as a Message Boy. He was soon promoted to Shop Assistant and shortly afterwards became the youngest Stores Manager in that chain of stores. Later he joined the management staff of the Milanda Bakery in Londonderry and was eventually transferred to their branch in Coleraine. After four years he was transferred on promotion as Area Manager to what later became Inglis and later still, Mothers Pride in Belfast. It was when he came to Belfast that the family moved to reside in Lisburn in 1974. After leaving Mothers Pride he worked for some years as Caretaker of Beechlawn Primary School in Hillsborough prior to taking early retirement in 1995.
John frequently referred to his humble but privileged upbringing within a loving family circle and the fellowship of Monreagh Presbyterian Church. The principles of his upbringing stood him in good stead throughout his life and contributed enormously to his faithful service within and far beyond his places of employment. It is a tribute to his Christian commitment that during his short time working in Coleraine and within the fellowship of Macosquin congregation he was called and ordained to the eldership of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. This position he retained when he joined Hillhall congregation in about 1979 and was co-opted as a ruling elder. Only eternity will reveal the debt of gratitude which this congregation holds to John’s memory. His keen interest in every aspect of this congregation’s work and witness was testimony to his love for Christ and the Church.
For many years he taught in Sunday School and, within the Congregational Committee he held office as both Congregational Secretary and Congregational Treasurer. In the aftermath of the malicious fire which destroyed the entire hall accommodation in November 1999, every brick and nail had to be accounted for to the Loss Adjustor and Insurance Company. John took on the enormous task of administering the claims procedure. It might have been possible to get someone with the business head to do this but not necessarily the heart. Equally, it might have been possible to get someone with the heart but necessarily the business head. John had both and gave unstintingly out of love for the people of Hillhall and his Lord and Master - Jesus Christ.
As a District Elder he was loved and greatly respected for the care and concern for the families over which he exercised this pastoral role. The families in his district were thrilled not just to open the door of their homes but the door of their hearts to John. In 1994 he was appointed Clerk of Session, a role in which he brought tremendous encouragement to his fellow elders and his immaculate minute recording was legendary. He was, among so much else, a good listener. After much debate at either Kirk Session or Congregational Committee meetings, members would frequently ask - “Why did we not think of that until now?”
For many years John was Hillhall representative to Dromore Presbytery. Of the 22 congregations in the Presbytery each one at some time would have benefited from John’s presence at services such as Ordinations and Installations. At Presbytery meetings his contribution was listened to with benefit and respect.
At his funeral service, Dr Richardson, in the absence of the minister, the Rev Paul Jamieson who was on holiday abroad spoke under the headings: John Connor - the person he was, the life he lived, the example he set, the principles he espoused and the service he rendered. He underlined John’s dependability, his discretion, his ability, his availability, his faith and his love and devotion to Christ and the Church. Taking the opportunity to recognise the contribution John’s wife Joan had made to John’s ministry he reminded those present of the lonely nights Joan must have had when John was out giving of his time and talents in the service of the Church. Dr Richardson went on to assure their daughters Avril and Linda and their son John and the wider family circle of the sympathy and prayers of the Hillhall congregation, the Presbytery of Dromore, the wider family of the Christian Church irrespective of denomination label and all those in the community who will ever be thankful to almighty God that such a man as John Connor crossed their path.