10/17/2004 Right Turn: Connor's open door, compassion
leave mark (w/tidbits)
Gary Connor, forefront, and Linda Dozier
work feverishly on ads in 1980. The two worked together for
more than 25 years. Daily Sun file photo/JIM HOWELL
|Gary Connor spent 26 years with the
Daily Sun, the last 13 as publisher. He starts with the
Palestine Herald-Press Monday. Daily Sun photo/SCOTT HONEA
By RAYMOND LINEX II/Daily Sun Staff
While the day may start a bit earlier than normal, the routine after
waking will be much the same Monday as it has been for the past 26
years. The neatly pressed shirt and slacks will slide on the same,
the motion of the comb will follow its standard course. The avid
hunter and faithful family man will climb into his black Ford pickup
and make the same three-quarters of a mile drive to U.S. Highway
There, as he checks traffic to his left, then right, life will take
a turn for Gary Connor, who may just look left again.
No longer will the trek to work from Eureka lead him to make a turn
in that direction, toward Corsicana and the Daily Sun, where Connor,
54, has spent the last 26 years of his life as advertising
representative, ad director and publisher. It will take him south, a
right turn off the county road he's called home for almost 30 years,
At some point after 6 a.m., maybe even before, Connor will report to
work, his first day as the new publisher at the Palestine
Herald-Press. Twenty-six years of familiarity gone with one
45-minute commute that will soon become as routine as his drives
past the fields off 287 dotted with cattle and oil pumpers, Mildred
School where he once taught and through a stretch of old Highway 75
that once included Sirman Automotive, V's Cafe and a corner Dairy
"Fortunately it's a slow process of realization," he said Wednesday,
the books and coffee cups and hats he's collected over the years --
13 as publisher -- still firmly affixed to the shelves behind his
Packing would wait until the weekend, when realization would become
a key word for the family, both the Connors and the Daily Sun. Most
in the office have known only one publisher. For those with more
tenured careers, it's a long reach back into the memory bank to
Whether its 33 years of service or three, Connor left virtually the
same mark. He will be remembered in the office for his ability to be
fair, his open door policy, his compassion and, perhaps most of all,
his genuine sense of friend.
"Even if the next guy is a wonderful person, I don't know that I
want to be here another 19 years to build a relationship like that,"
said Karen Davis, whom Connor hired when he was an ad director.
Davis has peers in the office. Circulation Manager Sharon Mertz has
been at the paper for some 27 years, about six years short of Linda
Dozier, who owns a seat mere feet from Davis in the advertising
office. The words of adoration about Connor stumble at their lips
when the tears start forming and their realization kicks in.
The witty Dozier puts it into terms easy to understand ... at 52,
she's known Connor half her life, spending as much time with him and
coworkers as at home at times. Boyfriends come and go, she jested,
but Connor has been one man constant in her life.
That in itself is a blessing, she said.
"I knew I could go to him about anything, job-related or personal,"
Dozier said. "He was always there for me, and he never judged me.
"That's rare. He would listen, and say, 'What can I do to help?' "
There were many days Mertz said she would venture into that open
door, only to shut it "and ball my eyes out."
Mertz and Dozier, like their counterparts, never saw Connor's
leaving coming, especially less than a year after Advertising
Director T.C. Hurst retired after 21 years. They expected Connor to
be at the Sun until he retired, too. After all, he had endured in
the office's highest role for a long time.
In Connor's 26 years, he worked for three other publishers before he
ascended there. In that same time, 12 editors called the Daily Sun
Those were not all easy years. Connor was at the helm when a fire
struck the Sun in the summer of '92 and displaced employees for five
months. The paper never missed an edition, a source of pride for
There were ownership changes, five in all. In the late '80s
bankruptcy entangled the paper in years of struggle. And you can
never underestimate the impact employee problems -- in office and
out -- can play in a business.
There were surgeries, sicknesses, deaths and disasters. Through it
all, Connor was a constant.
"He's always been so understanding and fair," said Davis, who fought
and won a battle with cancer several years ago. "He always looks at
the whole picture. ...
"Since I've been here, I've had two kids and dealt with cancer. Some
people would say, 'Deal with it.' "
No one knows that type of support from Connor more than Assistant
Editor Loyd Cook. In May of 2002, he missed three months after
double-bypass surgery and a staph infection that followed it.
"I remember laying in a hospital bed after a second surgery related
to my bypass operation," Cook said. "My wife was at my side and Gary
had made the out-of-the-way trip from Corsicana to Baylor Hospital
in Dallas to check on me. At that point I had been off work about
seven weeks or so and the medical bills left over after insurance
were beginning to weigh on my mind. I was worried I wouldn't
continue getting my full paycheck if I stayed out much longer."
Connor told Cook not to worry. In hindsight, Cook said he never had
"I never lost a penny of my salary while I was out, which eventually
stretched to three months. Not a lot of bosses take care of their
people that well," Cook said.
Though Connor took journalism classes at Stephen F. Austin, the 1968
Frost graduate didn't immediately make his way to the newspaper
profession. English was his first love, and he landed in the
classroom at Mildred High School for four and half years teaching it
He was searching for a new career when he spotted a classified ad in
the Sun for an advertising representative. He answered it, and a
career did indeed blossom.
"I immediately found the daily deadline regimen suited me
personally," Connor said.
The rise to publisher came with proper guidance, Connor said, from
predecessors Art Kenney and Wilson Griffin, two "very good newspaper
people and very good teachers with patience," Connor said.
The paper joined the computer generation during Connor's 26 years,
added a Saturday edition, won numerous awards and saw its football
sections the last two years top corporate-parent CNHI's competition
for revenue share, doubling in sales from 2002 to 2003 and twice
besting Norman, Okla., which has Oklahoma University to bank on.
Still, Connor's self-professed greatest accomplishment had little to
do with ink and paper and revenues and more to do with those who
helped carve out a daily edition day after day after day.
"The true highlights are each day that each employee came on the
staff," Connor said. "This is the finest group of newspaper
professionals I could have ever hoped to work with. Not only do they
work hard, but they take a great deal of pride in the finished
Perhaps, they are a reflection of their publisher.
"He's a true, southern gentlemen," Dozier said.
Said Cook, "Gary has been a friend, co-worker and mentor during my
eight years with the Daily Sun. I've had my share of bosses, good
and bad, but Gary has been the best person that I've had the
pleasure to work for."
Turn right. The legacy will begin to form to the left.
Raymond Linex II may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]
Gary Connor lists five events that occurred during his 26 years with
the Daily Sun that stood out:
1. Microtech: The computer system in the late '80s allowed the
circulation and advertising departments to ditch hand-written
classifieds and manually-built ads.
2. Lost press: In 1999, the Daily Sun's press was dismantled and
moved to Port Arthur, and printing operations moved to the Palestine
Herald-Press. Many residents said the backbone had been removed from
the Daily Sun.
3. Macintosh invasion: Microtech may have been the trendsetter, but
the move to Apple Macintosh computers throughout the newspaper in
the early '90s was the Daily Sun's most significant technological
4. Saturday editions: On Aug. 4, 1984, after weeks and weeks of
planning and preparation, the Daily Sun published its first Saturday
edition, making it a true seven-day daily.
5. The Fire: Eight years later, on Aug. 14, 1992, a fire ripped
through the press room, starting when a light fixture dropped
molten-like runoff onto rolls of newsprint. Employees were displaced
for five months, but not one edition was lost.
26 years in one spot ...
So how long has Gary Connor been at the Daily Sun? Here is a list of
personnel changes -- some significant, some not -- since his
beginning with the newspaper:
Daily Sun publishers (4, counting Connor)
Art Kenney, Tucker Sutherland, Wilson Griffin, Connor
Daily Sun editors (12)
Bob Armstead, Jody Cox, Jennifer Allen, Laura Albrecht, Joe Lee
Kergan, Charlie Harrist, Jim Goodson, Rob Ludwig, Loyd Cook, Raymond
Texas Governors (7)
Dolph Briscoe, Bill Clements, Mark White, Bill Clements (again), Ann
Richards, George W. Bush, Rick Perry
U.S. Presidents (5)
Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W.