Connor Lynn Smith passed away at his home in Farmington, Minn., on May 4, 2016, after a long illness.
Connor was born August 8, 1944, on a farm in Linn County, Kan., to Richard Dwight and Faith Junia Kibble Smith.
He attended the one-room Union School until the eighth grade when he moved to the Pleasanton, Kan., schools. His boyhood was spent in the usual pursuits of a Kansas farm boy: hunting, fishing, playing sports and helping his father on the farm. He enjoyed the companionship of his sister and three brothers as well as numerous school and neighborhood friends.
After graduation from Pleasanton Rural High School in 1962, Connor joined the U.S. Naval Reserves on a college deferment. While attending Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kan., he served one weekend a month and two weeks each summer as an airman maintaining aircraft for squadron VA-882 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Olathe, Kan. Connor earned a B.A. in Physical Education in 1967.
To begin his active duty obligation, Connor enrolled in Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Fla., where he earned his commission as an officer in the U.S. Navy. The new ensign’s first squadron duty assignment was to the Maintenance Department at Naval Training Squadron 25 (VT-25) at NAS Chase Field, Beeville, Texas, where he was responsible for keeping the aircraft operational for the student pilots, who were completing flight training during the years of the Viet Nam War.
From VT-25, Connor was stationed at Fleet Composite Squadron 1 (VC-1), the Aliis, at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. He served as the head of the Squadron Maintenance Department, maintaining a variety of aircraft serving the fleet.
His next assignment was to ship’s company, Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) on United States Ship (USS) Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. From the ship’s homeport, Naval Station (NS), Mayport, Fla., Connor made two deployments. He was underway with the ship on one of these cruises when it collided with a Liberian freighter in the Straits of Messina. Both ships sustained damage but there were no casualties.
In July 1976, prior to the decommissioning of the Roosevelt, Connor rotated to shore duty as head of the Maintenance Department for Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 4 (VQ-4) at NAS Patuxent River, Md. His mission during the three years he served in this position was keeping an EC-130 Aircraft in the air 24/7 to enable strategic communication with submerged submarines.
In September 1980, Connor met the carrier, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), in the Indian Ocean where the president of the U.S. had dispatched it in response to the Iran hostage crisis. As AIMD officer, Connor made two other deployments to the Mediterranean and North Atlantic seas from the homeport in NS Norfolk, Va. During the Mediterranean deployment, the Eisenhower participated in the evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff from Beirut, Lebanon, as that country fell into civil war. He was promoted to the rank of commander during his assignment on the Eisenhower, which would be his final sea duty.
From there, he was assigned to NAS Norfolk, Va., as AIMD officer and then, in June 1985, to the staff of the Office of Deputy Chief, Plans, Policy and Operations at the Pentagon. His next tour of duty was down the street in Crystal City, Va., to the staff of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) where he was promoted to the rank of captain. His mission at NAVAIR was Naval Aviation Support Equipment. Connor’s final duty station, beginning in 1989, was at Naval Air Engineering Center, Lakehurst, N.J., later renamed Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, where his mission was Aircraft Platform Interface, providing facilities and services necessary to permit fixed and rotary wing aircraft to operate safely and effectively from ships at sea and from expeditionary airfields. During this five-year tour, he worked in support of Operation Desert Storm.
He retired in September 1994, earning various medals and commendations over his distinguished 27-year military service.
After retiring from the Navy, Connor worked for consulting firms in the northern Virginia area and in Heidelberg, Germany. In 2006, Connor moved to Farmington, Minn., where he owned and operated a Quiznos restaurant. In his retirement he was able to indulge his love of travel both in the United States and Europe.
Connor is survived by his wife, Gloria Smith; two brothers, Wilbur Smith (Verla) and Roger Dean Smith (Joanne); a sister, Coleta Wurtz (Bob); and three children, Lynessa Anne Erler (Gregory) of Burke, Va., Amanda Carol MacRae-Roesch (Craig) of Williamsville, N.Y., and Gregan Robert Smith of Burke, Va. He is also survived by his first wife and the mother of his children, the former Janis Lynn Nesbitt; two granddaughters, McKayla MacRae and Gabriella Erler; a stepdaughter, Annette Grimaldi (Angelo); a stepson, Ricky; three stepgranddaughters, Alexandra Erler and Nichole and Julia Grimaldi; two stepgrandsons, Ryan and Jason Roesch; six nephews and nieces; and other family and friends.
His parents and his brother, Leonard, preceded him in death.
A memorial service was held May 11, 2016, at Henry W. Andersen Mortuary in Apple Valley, Minn., followed by burial on May 12, 2016, at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.
Connor will be remembered for the humor he brought to life and the patriotism with which he served his country.
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