Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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Westside

January 21, 2013

Sons continue father's legacy

INDIANAPOLIS — Clay Conner Jr.'s legacy doesn't just endure in a new book about his experience in World War II, but in the insurance company he founded and that continues to be run by his four sons.

Resolve, written by Bob Welch, tells the story of Conner's perseverance as an escapee from the Bataan Death March, when the Japanese took control of the Philippines in April 1942. Rather than face daunting circumstances in a prison camp, Conner, along with 300-some other U.S. soldiers, fled into the jungle.

Problem was, Conner was basically a cheerleader from Duke University who had never even been camping before he became a U.S. Army Air Corps communications officer. He and other soldiers spent the next 34 months hiding from Japanese forces, who ultimately put a price on their heads, while seeking support from natives who put their own lives at risk. Add to that the challenge of constantly having to move and dealing with rebel forces who had their own shifting allegiances.

"It was very much a balancing act," said Jack, Conner's second-oldest son.

Conner survived, though, and for a long time was a nationally-known speaker on his unlikely survival. He counted Bob Hope and Roy Rogers among his friends for a time. The NBC documentary show "This is Your Life" did a profile on Conner's military service.

"He was a hot commodity for a while - a war hero they wanted to put in parades," Jack said. "It was not uncommon in our lives for him to be gone speaking one or two nights a week."

Conner was born in Indianapolis but grew up in New Jersey. His parents worked for a company that printed payment plan books for banks. Their job was to sell these up and down the eastern seaboard.

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