LCol Henry Vincent O’Connor passed away on 20 March 2021 at the age of 91 years.
Born in 1929, he began his military career while attending St. Mary’s High School when he joined the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. After three years in cadets he became a cadet instructor with the 19th Alberta Dragoons, and entered the law program at the University of Alberta. He was commissioned into the Civilian Instructor’s List (renamed in recent years as the Cadet Instructor Cadre) on 10 April 1950, later becoming an Officer Cadet with the Militia. Upon graduation with degrees in Art and Law, O’Connor joined the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, but had to resign in December 1952 while articling for the Alberta Bar.
He was admitted to the bar in June 1952 and established his practice. He joined the Calgary Highlanders in 1953 as an Officer Cadet and was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 28 February 1956. He held most regimental appointments, serving as adjutant for many years under Lieutenant-Colonels Tennant, Lewis and Wagg.
The Calgary Highlanders witnessed many difficult episodes in the 1960s; as the Vietnam War caused a decline in public interest and respect for the military in the United States, and in Canada, the Militia found itself challenged in many ways. The role of the unit changed from infantry to emphasize re-entry operations and aid to the civil power. A pilot project resulted in the loss of Regimental Headquarters and unit identity, the regiment lost the right to wear traditional Highland dress, the Pipes and Drums were disbanded along with outlying companies throughout southern Alberta, and throughout what little remained there were reductions in strength and equipment and massive pay cuts.
LCol Vince O’Connor persevered and navigated the Regiment through some of its toughest times and will be remembered fondly for years to come.