In Memoriam: Conor McDowell (1995-2019)


The Chestertown 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. Retha Arrabal says

    What a wonderful tribute to your son. Thank you for sharing, and my thoughts and prayers go out to year. You have every right to be proud of your son. It’s seems his life was well lived, but far too short. My sympathies for your terrible loss.

  2. Peter Sweetser says

    A Marine died this week. The world is a lesser place for his passing.

    Maybe God’s plan in taking this young man from his mother and father, from his fiancee, from his brother Marines, was to remind us that when we lose the best of us, those who put them selves out front, those who set the standards and the pace, it is up to those who remain to reset the balance.

    As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, lets think not of the beginning of summer but of the loss we have and will endure as long as their is a need for young men and women to leave the safety of civilian life and put on the Cloth to protect and serve. Thank God for Conor and all of them, past, present and future.

    Semper Fidelis

  3. Louise Obrien says

    No parent should have to bury a child. Thank you to the McDowells for this message about your son. There are no words which adequately describe the profound sorrow surrounding this tragedy.


    i am so sorry for your loss, and to hear this very sad story.

  5. Deirdre LaMotte says

    We are just so saddened about Conor’s death. He truly was a wonderful human being in every way…just from reading this moving piece.
    I heard this morning and immediately prayed to all my deceased Marines: father, uncles, grandfather, back to 1812, to welcome Conor with open arms.

    Once a Marine, always a Marine.

    God bless you Conor and your parents.

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