Paula Conner was a private person who never wanted to draw attention to herself, choosing instead to make her every interaction about those she was helping. Yet her professional life was somewhat public.
She founded London Properties, a Fresno real estate company, with her husband, Dan, in 1970 and specialized in selling luxury homes to many of the city’s elite, compiling a long list of clients who turned into friends and family over the years.
“What Paula brought (to the company) was value systems,” Dan Conner said. “People talk about her kindness, whether it was to the gardener or the governor. Next would be her honesty. She just had an unbelievable ethical standard.”
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Mrs. Conner died April 18 after battling cancer. She requested a private family service and burial. The family agreed and only sent a note to London employees and associates about her passing.
She was a trooper. It never slowed her down.
But Wednesday, the company carved out two hours at its Maroa Avenue office to let Realtors and clients share stories and a few words about Mrs. Conner. In the days and weeks that followed her death, Dan Conner received hundreds of sympathy cards and phone calls from people asking about his wife and requesting an opportunity to talk about her.
Many didn’t know that she had been sick. Mrs. Conner had continued to work, sometimes nine-hour days, up until her death.
“She was a trouper,” Dan Conner said. “It never slowed her down.
Mrs. Conner was born Sept. 18, 1946 in Hamilton, Montana. She studied anatomy at Brigham Young University – Idaho, where she met Dan Conner in 1964. They married two years later. Her goal was to coach sports like her brothers, Dan Conner said. “But we were married and I dragged her off to California,” he said.
In Fresno, Dan Conner attended Fresno State and sold real estate to make a living. He would eventually buy the company he worked for called Herald Realty. Then he sold it and started London Properties with Mrs. Conner in a small home office. Today, the company is one of the leading real estate firms in Fresno with more than 300 associates.
Mrs. Conner and the Conner Team of Realtors that she managed consistently placed among the top producers in the industry and for the company over the years. She worked seven days a week and long days for her clients, Dan Conner said.
When the doctors told Mrs. Conner that there was nothing else they could do to treat her rare cancer, they asked her what she wanted to check off her bucket list of things to do. Her answer: “I just want to get up in the morning and work with my clients,” Dan Conner recalled. “She loved people.”
I just want to get up in the morning and work with my clients.
It wasn’t until after Mrs. Conner died that Dan Conner learned about her generosity, which included returning the commission on a house she sold and buying a car for a needy client.
Sherri Evert and her husband Paul are longtime friends of the Conners, who helped them find the property along Highway 99 for their business Paul Evert’s RV Country. “We bought and sold property together, but that was a minor part of the friendship,” Sherri Evert said.
Mrs. Conner “had a quiet grace and dignity,” Sherri Evert said. She also had a great smile. “When she smiled her nose would wrinkle and her eyes would get little. She was a happy person.”
When not working, Mrs. Conner liked to spend time at the house she owned in Oregon with her husband. She also loved the gym and made friends there, Sherri Evert said.
Other friends and family used these words to describe Mrs. Conner: graceful, respected, inspirational and sincere.
“She was not big because you knew she was in the room,” said her son, Patrick quoting his wife, Alison. “She was big because the room felt warmer and safer with her in it.”
Born: Sept. 18, 1946
Died: April 18, 2017
Occupation: Co-founder London Properties, Realtor
Survivors: husband, Dan; daughter, Danyelle Conner Bennett; son, Patrick; brother Dick Johnson; six grandchildren.
Remembrances: Art of Life Cancer Foundation, 6121 N. Thesta St., Suite 204, Fresno, 93710, ArtofLifeCancer.org/PaulaConner; Stanford Medicine, Development Services, P.O. Box 20466, Stanford, CA 94309, healthcarepartners.stanford.edu.