William (Bill) Connor

Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Date of Birth

September 1st, 1921

Date of Death

October 1st, 2009

Memorial Meeting

Multnomah Friends Meeting


Bill Connor, a member of Multnomah Monthly Meeting, died in October 2009. Bill grew up in Dubuque, Iowa where he was born in September 1921. Bill served in the Army Signal Corps in Hawaii during World War II. There he joined the Honolulu Friends Meeting and became a life-long Quaker. After the war he returned to Iowa where he joined Iowa City Meeting and earned a BA degree and then a MD degree at the University of Iowa. He taught at the University of Iowa, College of Medicine where he was Director of the Clinical Research Center until he moved to Portland in 1975. As a physician, he did ground-breaking work in linking diet and heart disease. Bill was an expert clinician and worked, often with his son Rodney, in clinics for the working poor. He was as comfortable with the elderly as he was with the transgendered patients, truly seeing each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect.

After joining Multnomah Meeting, he and his wife, Sonja, shifted their presence to First United Methodist Church in Portland working tirelessly and persistently on social justice issues. Bill always considered himself a Quaker and remained a member of Multnomah Meeting. In the last years of his life, he was actively working for his Methodist Church to declare itself a peace church and invited Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers to speak to them about that.

During the 60s he worked on racial equality including opening his home to two African-American high school students who could not attend their school in Virginia. He worked with Iowans Against the Death Penalty from 1962 until the death penalty was repealed in 1965. Bill was a passionate peace advocate and worked on this effort with many groups (Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Friends Service Committee, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Friends Committee on National Legislation). He and two friends stood on a corner of the University of Iowa campus every Wednesday for nine years from noon to 12:30 pm in protest of the Vietnam war with as many as 300 joining them. He had been involved in efforts to repeal the death penalty in Oregon since 1991, was a chief petitioner of the Life for a Life ballot initiative effort and was recently named chair emeritus of the Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Bill is survived by his wife, Sonja, his children, Rodney, Susan, James, Chris and Peter, and grandchildren, Natalie Mulford, Amanda (Jon) Sanford, and Elliott, Zach, Patrick, Gabriel, Jessica and Benjamin Connor and his sister Kathleen White and brother Jomes (Zoe). He was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife Selma and his brother John Connor.

A celebration of his life was held November 14 at 2 pm at the First United Methodist Church, in Portland.