The Kirkwood massacre

In my years as a reporter and copy editor, my least favorite tasks involved handling tragic stories reflecting the dark flaws of human nature. Another seemingly random act of violence happened last night in Kirkwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis: Six people killed by a man angry at his local city council.

This morning I learned that a former coworker, Connie Conroy (now Connie Karr), had just finished leading the Pledge of Allegiance when she was killed by Charles "Cookie" Thornton, a construction contractor who recently lost a federal lawsuit against the city.

Connie was a fellow Globie back in the 1980s when we struggled to keep the St. Louis Globe-Democrat alive. After the joint operating agreement with the Post-Dispatch was dissolved, we carried the Globe on our shoulders for about a year and a half under astoundingly difficult conditions. Reporters drove delivery trucks, copyboys became printers. In the worst heat wave of the century the air conditioning was shut off; reporters passed out at the keyboard, were carried into the computer room, revived, and went back to work. Teamsters surrounded the building, shots were fired and bricks were thrown. Outnumbered 2:1 by the Post-Dispatch, we nevertheless beat the post day after day, week after week on major stories. When the paychecks started bouncing, people stayed on the job, unpaid. It was a great time to be a newspaper journalist.

Here is the note that I received this morning from Lynn Zipfel Venhaus:

Hello friends
Such sad news -- Connie Karr, our dear former St. Louis Globe-Democrat colleague we knew by the byline of Connie Conroy, was among those who died in the horrendous Kirkwood City Hall shooting Thursday evening. She was serving her second term on the city council.

(Did you have this feeling that she might be one of the victims? The thought crossed my mind...The TV stations didn't release names Thursday night, that's to be at a press conference Friday morning. Her death was one of the three out of the five victims reported on the website late, which I checked for updates -- after my usual nighttime habit of falling asleep on the couch! I'm so stunned, I wanted to get this word out in case you missed it.)

What a tragic loss! Connie attended the huge Globe reunion at Lucyann's house in Memorial Day Weekend '05, and if you were there, you may recall her using crutches after some sort of foot surgery. She talked about being on the Kirkwood City Council, and appeared to be very dedicated. (Photo attached: Nat Helms, Anita Kelso, me, Connie)

During her tenure as a reporter at the Globe -- as part of the Gluck and Veritas years 1984-86 -- she was a feisty one, and very supportive of her co-workers as well as pro-Guild. Like many of us, she worked very hard to keep the paper alive.

Was she among the staffers who first went to the judge the summer of '85 to force Gluck into bankruptcy? I can't remember (!), but it sounds like something she would have either been a part of -- or at least supported. She was very vocal, you might remember!

I would certainly describe her as a character, and so funny! She had that raspy voice, and was quick with a quip. She was very straightforward, calling it as she saw it - definitely speaking her mind. She was always so energetic and helpful, really fun to be around -- just a solid good person.

She was one of the chief organizers of the Globe party AFTER we got our bankruptcy checks -- was it '89? -- at the Missouri Grill. She wanted to have a contest to determine who had the most bounced paychecks, and so forth. She worked at Maritz by then.

It was during her time at the Globe that she started dating Rick Hummel, Post-Dispatch sportswriter. They got married and later divorced, and have a daughter together - Lauren, 15, her only child. (He offers kind remarks in the Post website article). She was remarried, but I don't recall if her husband accompanied her to the May '05 reunion.

I don't know about y'all, but after Nancy Miller's senseless killing Friday and now this, it's very upsetting. I'm just in shock.

At the very least, I would like to attend the wake/memorial service for Connie, so if anyone has the information when it becomes available, please pass it on.

In trying to track down some of your e-mail addresses, I came across some e-mails saved in my Globe file. Sure enough, there's one from her, dated May 26, 2005, in response to everyone's summary of the big, wonderful reunion:

A tip of the fedora to our wonderful host, hostess and organizing crew. Thank you so much for the fun reunion! (Did you collect enough money to cover expenses, like the tent?)

I saw the item in the P-D, but it told only part of the story. A fond salute to everyone in the Sports department – after all, I can’t remember a Globie who didn’t hustle a free ticket or two or four from our friends in Sports!

Thanks again for bringing us together!

Connie (Conroy) Karr

May she rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.
ord help us all.
Lynn Zipfel Venhaus

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Thanks for your kind comments regarding Connie (Conroy) Karr. I went to high school with her, and she was a good friend of mine. I especially remember being in Spain with her in 1972, drinking sangria in the bars as 16 year-olds. The presence of a female in a bar in Spain in those days when Franco was still in power created a little bit of a stir. That is how I will always remember her, stirring things up in way they righteously should be. May we all down a shot of something strong and Irish tonight - we'll all miss you very much Connie.

I am a Kirkwood resident and have known Connie just a year but she jumped on my school board campaign bandwagon in 2007. Since then, my husband and I became her treasurers for her Mayoral campaign and after discussing business in our kitchen, we loved to share a bottle of red wine with her. Such a go-getter was she - my thoughts are with her family at this time. I will raise a glass of wine to her tonight and remember her with a smile on her face!

Thanks for this post about Connie. I worked with her in the early 80s at my first job, at the Daily Dispatch in Moline, Ill. (although we were in the small Rock Island bureau) and she was indeed a memorable woman. Always up for the good fight. We went to our share of concerts together (I can remember us being practically the only white people at a Prince concert in a small college gymnasium in Davenport, Iowa, before most anyone had heard of him; and a great Emmylou Harris show at a county fairgrounds), and I still have a picture of her from a costume party I gave in which she dressed as a frog! .... I'm still having a hard time processing this dreadful news. What a tragedy.


I'm sorry to hear you lost your friend and I was glad to read your thoughts about her life.

Best, Ellen

I'm another high school classmate of Connie's. I didn't know her as well as John Scariano who wrote an earlier post. But Connie made an impression beyond her personal circle of friends. I met her again last June at a reunion of student newspaper folk and other hangers-on at Rich East High School from the early to mid 1970s, and she was the same Connie as 35 years ago --- not deterred by anything. I wish I had gotten to know her better, and sad that opportunity has been taken away. My sympathies to all of you who knew her.
--- Jim Meadows

Tim Cain sent me this:

A funeral service for Connie Karr, 51, a member of the Kirkwood City Council, will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Gerard Majella Catholic Church, 1969 Dougherty Ferry Road, Kirkwood.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Bopp Chapel, 10610 Manchester Road, Kirkwood.

Mrs. Karr is survived by her husband, Kevin; a daughter, Lauren; her parents, Bill and Bette Conroy; and three sisters.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Friends of the Kirkwood Library tribute fund.

I just received a Christmas card from a neighbor. 35 years ago Connie helped me get through graduate school by babysitting for my children. She and sister Janet were wonderful with them and were good neighbors. I am shocked to hear of her death almost a year later. I am not surprised to learn of her many wonderful accomplishments. I knew she was a shining star even then. She is missed and even though I had not seen her since she was a teen, the world is a somewhat dimmer place now that she is gone.