Richard J. Conner, 92, a West Chester legend who endured frostbite to lead a regiment that helped liberate Luxembourg during World War II, died Sunday of injuries he suffered in a traffic accident near his home.
Mr. Conner was a familiar figure in the borough, running a gas station in the days when an attendant would greet the driver, wipe the windshield, and check the oil. He later opened a tire store, got involved in local government, and for four decades regularly joined friends for breakfast at Mrs. Mike's restaurant.
That all came after his extraordinary war experience during the Battle of the Bulge, which Mr. Conner did not dwell upon, said his daughter, Judith Clark. Mr. Conner wouldn't even watch World War II movies; in his view, he had lived the reality show.
When offered the opportunity, he'd say, "Nope, I don't need to see it again."
However, his daughter said, he did relish one war-related story. As a result of war injuries, Mr. Conner had various nagging physical discomforts. Several years ago, he visited a podiatrist, who asked if Mr. Conner had any history of foot problems.
Mr. Conner told him about the Battle of the Bulge, for which he was awarded a Silver Star.
The doctor was puzzled, Clark said. He said to Mr. Conner: " 'I don't know what your diet would have to do with the problems you're having now.' "
Mr. Conner was not offended. "He thought it was hilarious," his daughter said.
Mr. Conner was born in Downingtown and lived in West Chester from the time he was 5. He graduated from West Chester High School, playing on the 1931 football team that went undefeated. He attended what was then West Chester State Teachers College.
He worked as a salesman before enlisting in the Army, rising to the rank of captain. During the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Conner led a regiment to Neidhausen.
According to a newspaper account, Mr. Conner pressed on through deep snows for four days and nights, even though a medical officer warned that he might lose his foot to frostbite. Neidhausen eventually was captured.
Back home, Mr. Conner opened an Atlantic service station and operated Conner's Firestone for several years.
He served on the Borough Council and the West Goshen Sewer Authority. He also was on the boards of Chester County Federal Savings & Loan and Commonwealth Federal Savings & Loan.
Although he retired 20 years ago, his daughter said, he continued to do volunteer work at Chester County Hospital until two years ago. He was also active in Meals on Wheels, and offered free cab service to many of his elderly friends.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Beatrice Founds Conner; a son, David; a sister; six grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Mr. Conner's wife of more than 45 years, Madalene Hayes Conner, died in 1988.
The funeral will be at 11 a.m. today at the First Presbyterian Church, 130 W. Miner St., West Chester. Burial will be in Green Mount Cemetery, West Goshen Township.
Memorial contributions may be made to Chester County Hospital Foundation, 701 E. Marshall St., West Chester, Pa. 19380.