Mahone Bay mourns passing of political force

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Lila O&#8217;Connor pictured in attendance at a meeting in 2012. O&#8217;Connor died December 5. She was 77.</p>

Mahone Bay has lost a savvy political force whose time in public life spanned years on the front-lines in municipal politics and back-benches of a provincial government.

Lila O'Connor spent about 17 years as a member of Mahone Bay town council, serving separate terms in the late '80s and early '90s; then again between 2000 and 2012. She quit council in 1993 to take a seat as MLA for the Lunenburg riding in the John Savage Liberal provincial government where she served one term before being defeated. She subsequently secured extended time in civic government.

O'Connor died December 5. She was 77.

A service of remembrance will be held at 2 o'clock, Saturday, January 6th at the Trinity United Church in Mahone Bay.

"Lila could be counted on to be there is times of need. I shall miss our discussions on things political and her counsel," Mahone Bay Mayor Dave Devenne posted on social media. "She was a wife, mother and grand-mother who was cherished by her family. And Lila was a friend to her neighbours and all her knew her."

Among other past interests, O'Connor operated an antique business in Mahone Bay, played a valued role in the establishment of the Lunenburg County Branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses, and contributed to cancer research charities.

"Lila was a strong voice for the South Shore and a committed community member who was always trying to improve the lives of others," Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement provided to LighthouseNOW.

Don Downe served in the Liberal caucus with O'Connor in the 1990s. The former Lunenburg West MLA described her as a close friend and a solid representative who had a passion for community and people.

"She fought for everything she could get," he told LighthouseNOW in a telephone interview. Downe, in the Savage government's inner circle at the time, recalled her persistence. "You knew - when she was after you - you had to do something," he said with a laugh.

In an interview with LighthouseNOW in 2002, she said her first political experience was in the fall of 1960 when living in South Carolina where she handed out flyers for then presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

She ran unsuccessfully for the provincial Liberal nomination in 1988 before securing the post and winning in Savage Liberal landslide. Her time as MLA lasted one term. A year after her provincial defeat, she was again nominated for 1999 election and again came up short. She served successive Mahone Bay town council terms until her defeat in 2012.

"If you're interested in school board, run for school board. If you're interested in the town, run for municipal office. Don't think it prepares you for provincial office because it doesn't, the issues are completely different," she told LighthouseNOW in 2002 of her experiences in public life.

"Make up your mind that you are going to win some battles and lose some battles but being an MLA was one of my best experiences. I made some good friends and I have a lot of good memories."

O'Connor is survived by her husband, three children and several grandchildren.

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