We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home
Paul Cleburne Conner, aged 92, a true 20th century renaissance man, departed this world on July 28, 2022. He was a man of many talents, but his family was always first in his heart. He was born September 16, 1929, in Guntersville, Alabama, to Thelma Pendleton Conner and Frank Norwood Conner. When Lake Guntersville was created and their land was flooded, they moved to Geraldine, where Paul grew up playing multiple sports and eventually married his sweetheart, Dixie Faye Green on July 24, 1948.
After marrying, Paul and Dixie moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked in automotive manufacturing. He joined the Air Force in 1952 and served until 1954, an opportunity that allowed him to see the American Southwest for the first time. For the rest of his life, he loved taking his family all over the United States. By his own count, he had visited 43 states and even played a game of baseball in Nelson, British Columbia. Following his discharge, he and Dixie returned to Alabama and he attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1957 and began his career as a Project Engineer at Ampex Corporation in Opelika. Then he began work on his Masters at Auburn while assisting as a Research Associate for NASA, Jupiter and Saturn Projects, as part of the AU Research Foundation, graduating with a Master of Science in Industrial Arts in 1964. He taught various classes at Auburn University over the next years in the School of Industrial Arts, including drafting, metrology, manufacturing technology, kinematics, and aviation management. His skill in precision machining led to him being tasked with making the casing for the transmitter of the first TV signal to be broadcast from space. His wife, Dixie also earned her degree from Auburn University during that time, and a great source of pride for them is that every one of their children and grandchildren hold college degrees.
Paul was a sportsman and was an avid, self-taught golfer. As a natural-born engineer he couldn’t help but think about all the ways he could make golf courses better. He took over as superintendent of Saugahatchee Country Club, now Indian Pines, in the early 1970’s and designed and built the current Saugahatchee Country Club course at the border of Opelika and Auburn, where he could tap into both cities’ water supply. He was very involved in the turfgrass industry, providing consulting for design and construction of many courses around the Southeast as well as to related equipment firms. He held the course record at old Saugahatchee, with a 63 shot in 1967. He also shot a hole-in-one at the new course on January 3, 2004.
Naturally, his incredible knowledge of turfgrass led him to the Auburn University Athletic Department as Assistant to Athletic Director/Facilities, where he and Coach Pat Dye teamed up to redesign the field at Jordan Hare Stadium. He designed and built much of the equipment they used. If you were around for the 2009 game against West Virginia, you might have marveled at the efficiency of the drainage system that he designed and installed in 1984, which drained 3.75 inches of rain prior to kickoff. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the Auburn Athletic Department in 1986, as well as the Unsung Hero Award from the Chilton County Auburn Club in 1992, and the George P. Toma Award for the best natural turf playing field in the nation. In 1992 he retired from AU and returned to golf course maintenance full time. In 2005, the Alabama Turfgrass Association honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In retirement, Paul continued to enjoy traveling with his family, especially out West. The family created many cherished memories during their vacations at Moose Head Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming. He also took up the hobby of restoring antique cars. One of the highlights was returning his father’s first truck, a 1947 Chevy flatbed, to pristine condition. He also returned to woodworking, a skill he learned as a child from his own grandfather, Earnest Copeland Pendleton. He was able to gift each of his children and granddaughters a handcrafted cedar wood chest.
Paul was driven throughout his career to “make the world a better place”. He loved Auburn and the Auburn Creed, and Auburn athletics. He believed in hard work, and took exceptional pride in his workmanship in whatever form that took.
Paul is preceded in death by his parents and his niece Melanie Hiett Bennett.
Fittingly, his last day at home was his 74th wedding anniversary, which he spent with his wife, Dixie Faye Green Conner. He leaves behind a large and loving family to whom he was an inspiration, a teacher, and a visionary. He is survived by his wife, Dixie; his four daughters, Elizabeth Conner Marchi (Jon), Nancy Conner Teel (Les), Susan Virginia Conner, and Malinda Conner Poe (Michael). He is survived by 12 grandchildren, Katherine Teel Rainer (Rex), Jonathan Taylor Teel (Tamara Hill), Elizabeth Palmer Poutre (Marc), Caroline Copeland Renick (Joey), Margaret Pendleton Jordan Heumann (Hunter), Zachary Conner Teel (Starlyn Myers), Ann McKinley Hamilton (Matt), Elizabeth Daniel Jordan Tedder (Chase), Jesse Copeland Teel (Sara Beasley), Conner Olivia Jordan, Virginia Grace Poe, and Ann Elizabeth Poe. He is also survived by his sister, Gail Conner Hiett (Lamar), nephews Keith Hiett (Debbie Parks) and Frank Hiett, and niece Sherrie Hiett. He leaves behind a large and growing family of great-grandchildren, including Tristan Whitfield Teel, Tucker Paul Teel, Auden Clare Rainer, Tanner Joseph Teel, Callan Rex Rainer, Tatum Rebekah Teel, Lena Klair Teel, Camellia June Teel, William Paul Hamilton, Iain Conner Teel, Oaks Wiley Teel, Jones Conner Renick, Charles McKinley Hamilton, Eran Archer Teel, and baby Cricket Kane Heumann, as well as great-nieces and nephews, many of whom are his namesakes.
He will be lovingly remembered as a man who never stopped learning new things, who was proud of his family and their many accomplishments, who was steadfast and dependable until the end.
A memorial service will be held Monday, August 8, at 11:00am at Auburn United Methodist Church, followed by a reception in the fellowship hall.
The family would like to thank the many caregivers who lovingly gave dedicated care over the last several years, especially Carla McGastor, Karen Phanthachith, Anna Story, Margie Wright, Amanda Hamby, and others. Also, thanks to the staff at East Alabama Medical Center for their compassionate care.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, gifts be given to the scholarship created in his name, the Paul C. Conner Turfgrass Endowed Scholarship at Auburn University. You can give online at Auburn Giving and search the scholarship by name or send a check payable to “Auburn University Foundation” with the name of the scholarship on the memo line to Annual Fund, Attn: Gift Processing, 317 S. College St., Auburn, AL 36849. Donations can also be made to the Capital Fund, c/o Auburn United Methodist Church, PO Box 3135, Auburn AL 36831-3135.