A big hearted rebel, who championed community and global causes, photo journalist Sean Connor passed away peacefully surrounded by the love of family and friends at his home in Kelowna on July 8, 2016, at the age of 59.
He was born at Kelowna General Hospital, and grew up in several B.C. communities. Sean loved Kelowna best, and it’s here where he met Sandra, the love of his life, over 30 years ago. Building a life with Sandra and his favorite buddy, son Dave, the family moved to Edmonton where Sean pursued his dream of being a photojournalist. After completing his Photographic Technology training at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Sean began an adventure. Using photography as his medium, he communicated his love for people, nature, and his respect for life’s experiences. He was a generous compassionate man, a poet at heart with a sharp wit and a gift for storytelling. Sean’s work as a freelance journalist for the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Canadian Press, numerous wireline services, and as photographer for the Kelowna Capital News, not only garnered respect from his peers , but Sean touched many hearts with his meticulous skills and artistry. Undertaking each endeavour with zeal and honesty, he availed himself to his community and country when a story needed to be shared. A good friend to the SPCA, he supported many projects with his photography. He loved nature, he loved fishing, and he has been recognized for many wildlife photos. In 1995, Sean received recognition for his tour of service with the Canadian Armed Forces in Bosnia and Croatia. It reads that Sean Connor was awarded the Can Bat 2 United Nations Protection Force, Bosnia and Croatia. He was honoured to have been recruited by the Canadian Forces to accompany them as a freelance journalist. His photos reflected a deep respect for the Canadian Military and the conditions of war at that time. Many were published in the military journal, Esprit de Corps. His military photos and his tribute to Canadian Service men and women through Canadian modern history have been exhibited on several occasions in Kelowna. At the request of students, Sean also entered the high school classroom, generously sharing his photos and experiences so that students could ask questions and connect with a voice for those who serve. Sean was passionate about accurately documenting history through his photos and essays. His efforts were often rewarded. Sean was the 2007, 2009 and 2010 recipient of the McMurray Community Newspaper Photo Essay Awards. He was awarded First Place B.C Interior Editorial Award, Take the Leap- Dare to Be Different, Best News Photo in 2008. In 2009, he received the CCNA Better Newspaper Competition, Best Feature Photo/Capital News. In 2011, he was awarded Best Feature Photo/Canadian Community Newspaper. There was great diversity in Sean’s photos. His photos appear in Terry Jones Edmonton Sun Publication of “Wayne Gretsky” an Oiler Forever. He was never so proud that he would deny his family or his pets a photo shoot, if it was requested, or even if it wasn’t. He loved to record life.
In July 2011, Sean was diagnosed with a rare and fatal tumor called a Clival Chordoma. At different times, the disease process took his vision, speech, his memory, his photography and so much more. Sean liked to think of himself as a “Bad Ass Chordoma Warrior.” With courage and resourcefulness, he and Sandra devoted the rest of his life to battling the disease and tackling the” bucket list”.
True to his nature, and refusing to succumb to the disease, Sean conducted an intensive search to learn about his circumstances, his options and his treatments. To give some meaning to the wastefulness of the disease, he studied, photographed and documented as much of his experience as possible. With humour, sensitivity, and his hefty dose of reality, he was devoted to encouraging others fighting the disease. Through conversations, Facebook postings, and newspaper articles, he connected with others who were suffering. One of his first photos was a selfie of his sterile blue nose pre surgery. Many photos followed including his appearance of being airborne during proton radiation treatments in California, elevator trips postoperatively, and voyages into the hyperbaric chamber at VGH. In 2015 he spoke in Kelowna at the Discovery luncheon fundraiser of the B.C. Cancer Foundation, where he was invited to present his journey and his involvement with the agencies Personalized Onco-Genomics Program, known as POG. Sean was the first Clival Chordoma patient to join the B.C research which is being conducted from VGH. This is the only study of its kind whereby using a patients DNA would hopefully determine the drug suited to target DNA markers. The study is being watched closely worldwide. Sean and Sandra were very grateful for this opportunity.
Throughout Sean’s illness, there were many who fought alongside the family. These include numerous health care professionals, as well as the family and friends who remained close during the hardest hours, and who celebrated during others. Sandra and Dave wish to thank all of you. To the medical community, Dr Ryojo Akagami, Sean’s Vancouver surgeon, we trusted and leaned heavily on your guidance. You gave him 5 incredible years. Thank you Dr. Kong Khoo, Sean’s oncologist, Dr. Dermot Adams, Sean’s Neurologist, Dr. Lilia Loredo in Loma Linda California, Dr. Gillian Fyles, Sean’s Pain Management Specialist, and last but not least, Family Physician Dr. Allison Pasenau. Their compassion, availability and endless effort gave hope. Thank you to the home care nurses who administered weeks of antibiotics, and to our special palliative nurse who couldn’t do enough. As for the bucket list, Sean achieved his dream of riding to Sturgis South Dakota in 2013. He continued to enjoy his Harley much longer than most would care to know about. Even when he could no longer ride, his amazing group of friends never let him stop believing that he could.
Finding a smile on Sean’s face was often pretty easy. A tandem first jump from a Vernon aircraft at 10,000 feet, days after one of the many surgeries, a slice of cheesecake and a shot of whiskey or tequila, tossing 40 or so frisbees to Cali from his reclining chair in the back yard, or a movie with the family including pets Cona, Cali, and Mittie, are all it would take. Sean was predeceased by his parents Elmer Lester Massey and Gladys Doris Massey. He is loved and missed by his large extended family. Sean was passionate about his interests, but there was no question, his family was his life. As a team they fought valiantly.
Sandra and Dave invite you to celebrate the memories on Monday, July 18, 1:00 PM at the Springfield Funeral Home. While Sean loved his flowers, the Chordoma Foundation was also close to his heart. Donations may be made by going to www.chordoma.org. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.springfieldfuneralhome.com 250-860-7077. Sean’s obituary has also been posted online at http://www.springfieldfuneralhome.com/obituaries/connor-sean/ whee a live streaming of the memorial service will also be available.