Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One Day I Saw Ty Conn

(This is being recalled from a very young mind...)

When my father would begin telling a story from his childhood, he would begin with “When I was a little girl…” which would cause an uproar of high pitched objections from my sisters and myself. He would simply smile and continue on, as he now had our complete attention.

I started this post at the beginning of November of this year when thoughts of my father return annually on the anniversary of his birthday. This story, however, is not about my father…

When I was a little girl, I lived in a small house on Pine Street with my father, mother and three sisters. Ours was a busy, full house. Lisa was the oldest, very beautiful and very bossy. Pam was next, also very beautiful and we envied her fashion sense. I was the third in the line of my sisters, a middle child that cried a lot, made funny faces and was very comfortable at the centre of attention. My little sister, Joanne, enjoyed the status of being the baby in the family. She was adorable and quiet and she was my main playmate. Next door housed our friend Jennifer, her mother, father and her little sister. Joanne, Jennifer and I were like the three musketeers on the block.

One day, a moving van pulled up to the house next to Jennifer’s and we were told that a new family was moving in – moreover, that there was a girl our age to play with. We were so excited for another friend to even out the numbers, to play on the swings in our small backyard, and to join in the sandbox fun. The moving truck came and went but the house remained still and empty for a painfully long day or two.

We waited…

Finally, there was some activity; finally we saw the girl! She was beautiful, she wore pretty clothes, and she had gorgeous, long wavy hair. I came to know her as Loris J Conn. Her new house was much larger than ours, her backyard was very large also, and she had a huge black dog that kept us away from that backyard. I was now very curious about this house, it was all a novelty. I should have envied Loris J for all that she had, but I did not; her house was always quiet, a sad quiet. I never saw her father. On occasion I saw her mother, but only inside of her house (I was rarely inside that house) and only for very brief moments. My memory always has her mother dressed in a fancy, oversized moo moo. I saw Loris J’s brother, her adoptive brother Ty, only once. I remember that day well.

Joanne, Jennifer and I were playing in the front yard. There were toys everywhere, mostly belonging to Jennifer. I was walking up and down the driveway mesmerized by a Fisher Price Corn Popper that I was much too old for, but I did not care. I walked and watched the different coloured balls as they took turns popping. Loris J joined in our play and then announced that Ty was coming for a visit. Play stopped as us girls became interested in the idea of a boy, a brother. We had questions.

Loris J noticed our ignorance concerning a brother, and with the authority she had earned, she explained what it was like to have one. We were fascinated. We learned that brothers were loud, tended to get into more trouble than their sister counterparts, and they were prone to peeing in their pants. I think I made a sour face when she said that last bit because she went into detail to support her claim. This was to be the first time I can recall hearing the word penis. I was both disgusted and curious. She smiled when she realized how little I knew about boys. She even demonstrated how much easier it was for girls to hold their pee. After that discussion, I was so glad to be a girl. It all sounded rather awful.

Ty showed up shortly thereafter, driven to the house by people we did not know. A procession of rather serious faces led Ty into the house without so much as glancing our way. I stood between Joanne and Jennifer, and we watched in awe as this boy, head down, a book between bookends, walked into that house. Loris J cheerfully excused herself and ran after them; we were not permitted to visit. Ty came and went that same day. I would never see him again.

Within a short time of that day, my family moved into a much larger house right around the corner on Bleecker Avenue. Jennifer’s family moved across town. Loris J and I went to different schools. That was that.

Twenty years later, I am perusing the books in the non-fiction section of the library when one title catches my eye, Who Killed Ty Conn. Written by Linden MacIntyre and co-authored by Theresa Burke, this book would explain in detail why this boy walked with his head down. A tragic story of abandonment, abuse and a boy whose wish it was to have a family. A story of poor judgment by the Ontario Child Protection Services, a story of the entitlements that come with position and money in our society and a story that reminds us that human attachment is essential to each and every one of us in our desire, our strong need to be loved.


15 comments:

  1. I love this little story..
    Ty's memory lingers in so many places in this city. Intersections in peoples lives. A tragedy of mythical proportions. Born to run, and doomed to become legend.

    Best Wishes,
    Adam

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  2. Thank you for sharing in this memory. I was between the ages of 5 - 7. I would love to hear more of these stories - have you any plans for sharing? It would be nice to put a more sensitive and personal story together. I feel like Ty has more to say.

    Janet

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  3. this is so weird...many years ago when i was a teenager far away in israel i had a pan pal from canada his name was ty conn.it took him few months to tell me that he was in prison for robbing couple of banks.few months later my letters came back with a prison stamp saying he was not there.(that was around 88-89).i just now learned about the story.i wish it would have a different end.

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  4. Just came across this article. I remember when the family lived out in Foxboro. Corrine ( Lori J??)used to come to our house in Belleville for the night. My mom used to drive to their house to pick her up. Their house was like a mansion, but was always very dark, drapes closed and not much activity. We were always curious about the inside of the house. We knew she had an adopted brother, and I remember they were going to send him back. her mother was said to be depressed and an alcholic. I have the book and found some of the answers, I had always been curious about. Such a tragic tale. Julie C

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  5. AnonymousJune 10, 2010

    I recently read this book and sadly wished I had not. Ty will just not leave me. When you live in the area it just is hard to believe that this really took place. Oh, I am now well aware that it did, but makes me want to hang my head and cry. I only wonder how many others, just like Ty, are out there. I keep asking myself, how did we let this happen?!
    Cathy M

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  6. Thank you all for sharing your experiences with Ty Conn, both personal and otherwise. It is a tragic tale, full stop. I, too, found the book shocking and difficult, but I am convinced that the sharing of this information, as opposed to keeping it all secret, is instrumental in creating change.

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  7. Just finished the book..it made me so sad.How many more young people are out there with no hope and end up like Ty.God Bless Him!

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  8. I am reading Who Killed Ty Conn for the SECOND TIME. I don't know what it is, but I am obsessed with his story. I have lived in Belleville for 20 years (I moved here when I was 25) and my husband was born and raised here. There are many names/places in the book we both recognize, especially my husband. This book has just been reprinted and reissued. It is a must read, esp. now considering the changes the gov't is planning re: the criminal justice system. we need to rehabilitate these young offenders, not incarcerate them. Ty's story is so sad. I wish everyone who had ever known him would read it.

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    1. The life story of Ty Conn is so blazingly sad, so tragic and unfair, it is difficult to know the details and not feel compelled to make changes. I believe that on some level we all connect with this life story, we have been witness to bullying, abuse and neglect of some kind. I have to give credit to Linden MacIntyre and Theresa Burke for telling this truth in the book. Thank you for sharing your thoughts also.

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    2. You mentioned you lived on pine and the Conn's moved in; however, from everything I can find- the conn's lived in their Leslie address prior to Loris J even being able to toddle on her own... and then they moved to foxboro when the kids (ty & Loris J) were 5/6; I'm just confused where this falls in their timeline? Thanks in advance..

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    3. I apologize that I cannot confirm exact dates. I will say that Mrs Conn lived on Pine St - the date of this memory is around the mid to late 70's.

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  9. and they allowed bert conn to be a dr.

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  10. After reading this book, I wonder if anyone would recommend the psychiatric services of Dr. Eujean Bert Conn over at the North Hastings Family Health at 1 Manor Ln, Bancroft, Canada.
    Perhaps his wife Arleen might.

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  11. Laurie ThompsonDecember 29, 2012

    I am almost through reading the book, and am astonished to google Dr. Bert Conn, and see that he apparently is still practicing in Belleville. What kind of a man could have never had the balls to open his heart and make good on promises he had made and then broke to Ty? Or to never step in and prevent the kind of treatment from his deranged wife to the child that Ty was? It is incomprehensible to think of a man that young, who had never done a violent thing, getting a jail sentence that far exceeded his age in numbers. How totally unfortunate that he was not properly adopted by other people instead of this highly dysfunctional family.

    I'd really like to see another book with hopes that it may prevent this unfortunate set of circumstances from happening to other children. I also grew up in a highly dysfunctional home, but am female. I grew up hearing how my mom "should have drowned us all when we were small", and that's just a small sampling. Had I been male, there but for the Grace of God...who knows?

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  12. Joyce MillerFebruary 15, 2013

    Who Killed Ty Conn should be a must read for every teacher.There are too many teachers who can not show compassion for their students.It may teach them to stop and ask themselves why is the student acting that way.Show some compassion rather than do it my way.There are far too many Ty Conn stories out there.

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