In Memoriam: Conor McDowell (1995-2019)


The Spy is profoundly saddened to report that Hugh Conor McDowell, the son of Michael, was killed in a training exercise in California on Friday.

A tribute from Conor’s father, Michael H C McDowell, is reposted here:

Hugh Conor McDowell (March 11, 1995-May 9, 2019. 1st. Lieutenant United States Marine Corps, Light Armored Reconnaissance, Camp Pendleton, California.

Our beloved and only child was killed yesterday in a bizarre accident on maneuvers, leading his new platoon. The light armored tank which contains 6 enlisted Marines and one officer, toppled over, and Conor was crushed underneath. He died en route to hospital.

Conor was due to announce his engagement and marriage to the love of his life, Kathleen Bourque, a beautiful, tall, slender, accomplished psychology graduate headed for a Ph D. They were deeply in love after a whirlwind romance which began in North Carolina in July of last year, and settled in an apartment near the ocean outside San Diego, with their dog Ruthie and cats Missy and Max.

Susan, my wife and I, loved Kathleen, having hosted her during Thanksgiving and over Christmas. She is a wonderful warm steady person and adored our son, equally.Conor was a warrior, like my father in the Royal Ulster Rifles in the Western Desert, Sicily and Italy in World War Two. Sadly, they never met but Conor felt as if he knew him.

Conor, since he was a small boy, wanted to be a soldier, and later, a Marine. He excelled. He read broadly and was intellectually curious, and was physically outstanding — slim, fit, six feet plus, and sunny and passionate in personality. He was above all a LEADER and majored in history, minoring in French, at The Citadel, the historic military college in Charleston, South Carolina. Junior cadets, while I served on the college Advisory Board would come up to me and tell me how much Conor had helped them and encouraged them, while holding them to a high standard. He helped and looked out for young women, minorities, etc. There was not a bigoted bone in his body. Conor graduated from The Citadel in May 2017 and was Provost Marshal of 1st Battalion and in Al[ha Company.

He grew up on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, until he was 3 and then we moved to Chevy Chase, on the DC side, where he went to Lafayette Elementary, and later Deal Junior High, both public schools. He chose St. John’s College High School, near us, the historic Catholic French Christian Brothers school, which had a crack Army ROTC unit. Conor in his senior year became Command Sergeant Major of the unit. He chose The Citadel because it graduated a huge number of Marine officers and had a rigorous physical and academic regime.

There is a massive hole in our hearts and there will be for the rest of our lives. He was our only beloved child, in whom we were well pleased. We hope to meet again with our son in some way at some time as we pass on, as he has, at so young an age, and with so much of life ahead of him.

Letters to Editor

  1. Elizabeth Freedlander says

    Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your son’s purpose-driven life. There is no sorrow so deep as the loss of a child and the loss of dreams that are attached, both yours and Kathleen’s.

  2. Mary Hunt-Miller says

    Dear Mr. McDowell and Family,

    I was deeply moved to read your moving tribute to your son who passed away recently in service to our country. You and his family have my utmost sympathy. Conor sounds like a son of whom any parent would be very proud. Tragedies like this are hard to understand and I wish I had words to ease your pain. I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you raised an exemplary young man who chose to serve his country, and who, during his years on this earth, lived a good life and inspired others.


    Mary Hunt-Miller

  3. Bryan McGrath says

    To the McDowell Family,

    I am so sorry for the tragic loss of your son. May his memory always be a blessing.

    CDR Bryan G. McGrath, USN (Ret.)

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