William L. Conner, 93
William L. Conner was born in Auburn, Nebraska August 22, 1920 and passed away Saturday, March 22, 2014 at The Residency Care Center in Scottsbluff. Bill was 93 years old. He spent his youth on ranches in the Panhandle and Sandhills of Nebraska, as well as farms in Iowa and Colorado. He graduated from Bayard High School in 1938 where he was a standout track athlete, running the quarter mile in 51.2 seconds. He was a member of the 1938 State Championship team, running on both the 880 and Mile Relay teams. He also played football and basketball.
He furthered his education as Sacramento Junior College in California and then transferred back to the University of Nebraska. In 1942, Bill was on the UNL indoor/outdoor track team that won the Big 6 Conference.
Bill met his future wife, Joan Sheldon, on a blind date. They were married in Scottsbluff on August 15, 1941. After a short honeymoon of the Rockies, bill left for military service. He entered the Army and was stationed a various military bases in North Carolina, Texas and California. He became an officer and was in charge of anti-aircraft troops in the Philippines. After the war ended, Bill returned to Lincoln where he finished his degree in education.
Bill became a fixture in the Scottsbluff High School Bearcat's' athletic program as a coach, then the athletics director for the next 34 years. A 10 year stint in football highlighted his coaching career. After an 0-10 inaugural campaign, Bill turned Scottsbluff around, winning 58 games in the next nine years, including a 21 game winning streak and four outright West Big 10 titles and one co-championship. As an assistant track coach, he coached several state champion jumpers and vaulters. He became the athletic director in 1964, overseeing the start of girl's athletics, swimming, tennis, golf and the Booster Club. In the 1967-68 school year, Scottsbluff enjoyed its best year in athletics, winning four state championships. Bill was instrumental and passionate about developing the athletic facilities as SHS. He pigeon-holed money obtained from renting facilities to Hiram Scott College. This money was used to install state of the art lights for the football field, an eight lane track, and the Bearcat Stadium press box.
Bill was inducted into the Nebraska High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011. At 90 years old, accompanied by his family he made the trip to Lincoln to receive this award. One highlight of his trip was watching a Scottsbluff graduate, Jordan Wilberger, play volleyball for the Huskers in the Coliseum, where his picture hangs. During his acceptance speech, he stated, "One of the keys to my coaching success was the complete and continual support of my wife, Joan."
Sports continued to be the main theme in Bill's retirement years. He followed and supported his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, watching them compete in athletics. Bill and Joan were avid Husker Football fans attending most home games.
Survivors include one brother, Jack Conner of Tracy, California; his four children, William (Lynn) Conner of Cook, MN, Pam Ehler of Scottsbluff, Tim (Jody) Conner of Charlotte, NC, and Kim (Rod) Whitlock of Nixa, MO; 13 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his wife and love of his life, Joan; two sisters, Norma and Eloise; three brothers, Earl, Leon, and Bob; and his dog and best friend, Benji.
A gathering of family and friends will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., Thursday, March 27, 2014, at Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel in Scottsbluff. A private family service will be held with inurnment following in the Fairview Cemetery in Scottsbluff with military honors provided by the Nebraska Army National Guard.
Respectfully requesting memorials be sent to the Conner-Madden Scholarship Fund in lieu of flowers in care of Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel, 3201 Avenue B, Scottsbluff, NE 69361 Tributes of sympathy may be left at www.dugankramer.com
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