Diana Lynn Connor
August 24, 1956 – September 1, 2017
Diana Lynn Cantrell Connor, the most gung-ho Aggie who never attended A&M, the most indulgent mother who never had her own child, and the toughest fighter who never threw a punch, died on Friday, September 1, 2017, in Bryan, surrounded by family and friends. She was 61.
Diana was born in Sweetwater, Texas on August 24, 1956. When she was 2, her family moved to Cooper, Texas, where they lived until moving to Roswell, New Mexico in 1967. In 1971 the family moved back to West Texas, and Diana graduated from Cooper High School in Abilene in 1974. She attended TCU, graduating in 1978 with a degree in home economics, after which she went to work for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service as a home demonstration agent for Johnson County in Cleburne. In 1980 she moved home to Abilene to work as an electric living consultant with West Texas Utilities.
A lifelong Baptist, she met her future husband Mike Connor in Sunday school at the First Baptist Church. They were married in 1986. In 1989 Diana and Mike moved to Dallas, where she worked as an administrator for the Junior League. After moves to Tulsa in 1994 and Longview in 2000, the Connors settled in Bryan in 2003. Diana worked as a membership investment representative for the B-CS Chamber of Commerce from 2005 until 2011. Her outgoing personality made her tremendously successful, just as it won her legions of friends at every stop along her journey in life.
That journey was never easy. At age thirteen Diana was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, a disease which over the decades led to two organ transplants, open-heart surgery, the loss of a leg, and countless hospital stays. Her steadfast perseverance in the face of adversity, and her refusal to complain about the lousy hand fate had dealt her, would be remarkable enough. But even more extraordinary is the fact that she never let her physical hardships define her. Faced with challenges that would defeat a lesser person, she viewed each new health crisis as a bothersome nuisance to get past so that she could resume the urgent business of living.
For Diana, living meant helping others. Unable to have children of her own, she became a substitute mom and mentor to dozens of young people. She and Mike became the foremost boosters of the A&M Singing Cadets, a group to which her husband and brother had both belonged. For her many services, including the creation of an endowment to buy class rings for needy members, she was named an Honorary Singing Cadet, the organization’s highest honor. She likewise became a fanatical supporter and beloved friend of the A&M women’s basketball team, never missing a home game and traveling with the team to many tournaments and championship games. The number of home-cooked meals she served to Singing Cadets and basketball players would be impossible to count. Diana also became mom-away-from-home for many children of friends and relatives who attended A&M. That support for Aggies included Diana and Mike quietly paying a cousin’s entire way through A&M and launching him on a successful career.
As Diana’s health grew more precarious in her final two years, she summoned even greater determination to live with purpose and enthusiasm. A trip to Tennessee to root for the Aggie football team landed her in a Nashville hospital, which mostly irritated her because she had to miss the game. Typically, she insisted that Mike still attend. Her many trips chaperoning the Singing Cadets included a trip to Boston and New York just before her final illness. There was exactly zero chance that she going to miss the Cadets’ performance in downtown Manhattan or their visit with President George H. W. Bush in Kennebunkport.
After having her leg amputated, she was thrilled to be fitted with a prosthesis that briefly gave her new mobility. Only two weeks before her death, despite her family’s concerns, she made the trip to Dallas-Fort Worth for a reunion with old Tulsa friends. While in Fort Worth she insisted that her nephew Calvin show her his new fourth-floor dorm room at TCU, even though she was confined to a wheelchair. The next day she attended her final sporting event, cheering the Texas Rangers on to victory over the Astros. Clearly, nobody could tell Diana Connor what to do, although she never hesitated to set the rest of us straight when she thought her way was the right way. Her kid brother thought she was bossy, but in fact she just didn’t have time for foolishness.
Diana’s zest for life and her service to others were exceeded only by her devotion to her husband and best friend Mike. Few couples have ever shared so many of the same passions, and their marriage set an example for others to follow. Diana did not wear her Christian faith on her sleeve, but it enabled her to face the end with the same courage and resilience that characterized her entire life. Hers was truly a life well-lived, and she will be sorely missed by all who knew her.
Diana was preceded in death by her father-in-law Harold Connor of Daingerfield and is survived by her husband Michael Connor; her parents Jimmie and Mary Lynn Cantrell of Abilene; her mother-in-law Laverne Connor of Bryan; and her brother Gregg Cantrell, sister-in-law Stephanie Cole, and nephews Calvin and Nolan Cantrell of Fort Worth.
A memorial service will be held at the First Baptist Church of Bryan 2pm on Thursday, September 7, 2017 followed by a visitation.
The family requests donations be made in her honor to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.