Chris Connors never played by the rules and his family was determined that his obituary wouldn’t either.
From the first line about him dying of whiskey and stubbornness, the obit for the 67-year-old Maine resident published in the seacoastonline.com this week went on to detail a man who “lived 1,000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life.”
Connors was stabbed saving a woman during a mugging in New York, got stranded in a life raft for 40 hours off Panama and reached base camp at Mount Everest at the age of 64. A Golden Gloves boxer from Quincy, Massachusetts, who went on to make a career on Wall Street, Connors was known for taking a swim in the ocean in January, occasionally cross dressing and leading a rousing night on the town with friends.
His passion for life was on display until the end, with one of his daughters recalling how he boxed with a bikini-clad hospice nurse and, 15 hours before he died, danced the Irish jig. His last words were curses.
“The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way,” according to the obituary which has gone viral. “And if you said he couldn’t do it, he would make sure he could.”
Connors, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and pancreatic cancer, died Dec. 9 at his home surrounded by his family. He had a wife and three children.
“He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important — the simplicity of living a life with those you love,” according to the obituary. “Although he threw some of the most memorable parties during the greater half of a century, he would trade it all for a night in front of the fire with his family in Maine.”
Connors’ daughter, Caitlin, wrote the obit with a cousin soon after her father died. Sitting around a fire with family members drinking, crying and celebrating, everyone just started sharing stories, she said, and the obit emerged.
Since it was published, Caitlin Connors said the obit has gone viral with people calling it inspirational, refreshing and praising its celebratory tone. Some even wonder if all his stories were true — they are, she says — and others “wishing they could have met him.”
“I think he would be so happy,” his daughter said, adding that her father had wanted the obit to be funny. She said the message she hoped to convey is “not to take life to seriously” and pull more out of life “than what life gives you.”
She said her father loved being a jokester and, “Now, we got to share all these stories and people are inspired by it.”
Caitlin Connors said readers also have responded to the obit by donating $8,000 to the Chris Connors Fund , a boating and water safety program for York, Maine, and its surrounding community. The goal of the program is to save lives by promoting and teaching safer boating and water habits for kids.