Nick Conn, long-time Venice resident, died at his home at 224 San Juan Avenue on Tuesday Evening, November 13, 2012. Born Nicolai Lenin Conn on February 22, 1925 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he was the middle son of three, his older brother, Karl Marx Conn, born in 1920 and Anatole France Conn born in 1926.
His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States from the Ukraine via Winnipeg, Canada. Both were prolific readers and saw education as of paramount importance. His mother, Dina Conn, also a Venice resident from the early 1950s to her death in 1969, was self-taught and spoke five languages. His father, William Conn, was a Communist involved in Syndicalism. After moving from Canada, William remained an illegal immigrant never obtaining citizenship from the United States. He started as a mechanical engineering student in Canada, becoming a tool and die maker in the United States and then a union organizer for the United Auto Workers. In the late 1930s, he was arrested for organizing during a strike in Michigan and spent several years at Steilacoom Federal Penitentiary where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
In the late 1920s, the two separated and Dina took her three sons to New York where she had family and friends. Nick grew up there attending secondary and high school and joining the Science Club and learning photography. After the outbreak of World War II, he joined the army and ultimately participated in the invasion of Normandy.
After the war, Dina and the three boys tried Florida for a short period and then in the late 1940s they made their way to the Southern California coast joining millions of others in search for a sunny life near the sea. They began living on the southwest corner of Ocean Avenue and Venice Boulevard in two small houses. The boys were attending college and enjoying a vibrant social life. Nick began going to law school and completed West Los Angeles College of Law.
He spent most of his professional life as an insurance investigator and adjustor with the firm of Michael Wishengrad & Staff in the San Fernando Valley. The work as an investigator provided him with enjoyable autonomy and the opportunity to travel throughout Southern California, especially in Los Angeles County.
All three of the brothers shared a great enthusiasm for sailing and owned a number of boats over the years. Throughout his life, Nick relished his sailing trips with family and friends in the Florida Keys and along the Western Continental Coast. After he retired from his career in insurance, he continued his interest in sailing and became an instructor with the U.S. Power Squadron, a non-profit organization dedicated to boat education and safety. Through this activity he met and retained many friends. He loved to quote the Water Rat from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows saying:
“Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
His enduring interests were in law, science and politics and reading was his lifelong abiding passion. He volunteered at the Venice Library in their literacy project for a number of years. His compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate than he, was well known in Venice and many people over the years have been the recipients of his generosity and kindness. He never forgot his parents’ teachings regarding equality and fairness.
His interest in the Venice Community lasted throughout his life and he participated in many efforts to retain autonomy from the pressures of the City of Los Angeles. Nick lived in Venice for over 60 years, except for a short period when he purchased a home in Mar Vista. He married and had three children and five grandchildren.
He believed in the fundamental importance of civic participation and voted at every single election leaving the stickers he received on his front door in a growing list as a statement of pride. We could all do well to emulate him.
Tina Morehead – January 27, 2013
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