Rockport, IN (Sept 2, 2011) - This visit is dedicated to my late friend and shipmate, RMC Thaddeaus A Conner, USCG (Ret). "TAC" died November 16, 1990 while serving as a Deputy Sheriff in his native Spencer County, Indiana.

Conner came into the Coast Guard as a prior service radioman from the U.S. Navy. His first duty unit was the Coast Guard Cutter SEBAGO (WHEC-42), where I was a relatively new Radioman 3rd Class with one patrol to my credit. I quickly learned my new watch supervisor had a superior level of professional ability and desire to pass his skills on to younger and more inexperienced radiomen. While that is not a rare quality in any service, it is something special and always a joy to serve alongside enlisted personnel of this type.

I found out just how much a friend this shipmate really was during the first week of January, 1971. Cutter SEBAGO was one day away from an eight week patrol to the North Atlantic when my mother and father unexpectedly showed up on the pier. I hadn't seen them in several months and they had made a special trip from Michigan to see me. Unfortunately my watch section had the onboard duty for the one remaining night in port. My parents very long trip was going to get them nothing more than a short afternoon visit before SEBAGO sailed.  I was disheartened to say the least. 

Word passed through the radio crew about my situation and within minutes RM1 Conner had stepped forward to our Chief Radioman and volunteered to take my duty so that I could spend the evening with my folks.  Without a second thought I jumped ashore and enjoyed a full afternoon and evening with Mom and Dad.  It didn't really dawn on me the sacrifice that TAC had made for me. Not long after down the lines cast off and I saw familes waving their goodbyes on the pier. My shipmate gave up the last night ashore with his family so that I could spend time with mine.  Rare? Special? Compassionate? You bet! Unusual? Yes, but not for TAC - he was always a giving person, willing to set aside his needs for others. 

Deputy Conner was investigating a traffic accident on a Spencer County road when he was struck by a drunk driver. I didn't learn of this until several years later when I was constructing a web site to honor my shipmates of Cuttter SEBAGO. When I visited Rockport to document the Spencer County memorial I rode up toward Santa Claus, Indiana to visit the Mount Zion Cemetery and spend some time at his grave. 

I didn't know exactly where the church was, so I stopped and knocked on the door of a small house to ask directions. The lady who answered the door not only knew exactly where the church was, but had known "Sonny", as a youngster.  She explained that Mount Zion had always been known as "Conner Cemetery" locally, because most of those buried in the little church yard were somehow related to the Conner family. 

That lady was right. I found dozens of markers with the Conner surname and dozens more that lead the average visitor to the realization the one at rest was an in-law or related in some fashion.  My shipmate's grave is just a few rows out from the parking lot - the marker looking bright and new, and decorated with fresh flowers.  I notice that his mother and father are only recently gone, outliving their "Sonny" by two decades. I wish I had been able to speak with them before they passed, to tell them what a fine son they raised.

After a few minutes of remembrance I step back, come to attention, and pass a salute to my friend. It sounds corny, but I am happy to honor and render a military courtesy to a superior shipmate. I remounted the motorcycle and headed southeast over yet another lonely country road, looking only for another monument and remembering the friendships they represent. 

Sunset and evening star,
  And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
  When I put out to sea, 

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

 

 

 

Rockport, Indiana

ROCKPORT:  Courthouse, Main St at S 2nd St, Rockport, IN

A shipmate has died
Hand salute as bugles play
Comrades mourn today
 
                  - Lee Wonnacott

state headline IN

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