Friday 21 October 2016

Sweet Smell of Success: Senator Frank P. O'Connor

On October 20, 1913, the first Laura Secord Candy Store opened at 354 Yonge St. To celebrate this delicious occasion, this week’s blog is dedicated to the founder of Laura Secord, Frank P. O’Connor. O’Connor named his store after the woman known for her courageous efforts to warn the British of an impending American attack one hundred years earlier during the War of 1812. Over subsequent years, O’Connor opened many locations across Canada and the US, where it was known as Fanny Farmer Candy Stores. This business venture made him a multimillionaire.
Portrait of Senator Frank P. O'Connor

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A man of little fanfare, O’Connor was also known for his philanthropy. In the 1920s, he donated $125,000 to St. Michael’s College for their building fund. In August 1935, he gifted $500,000 to the Archdiocese of Toronto, which was put into a trust fund administered by Cardinal McGuigan. This money paid off the entire debt of the Archdiocese and supported a number of charities around the city.

Letter from Abp. Arthur Alfred Sinnott of Winnipeg to Abp. McGuigan about O'Connor's gift
August 12, 1935

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Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King appointed O’Connor to the Senate in November 1935, where he represented the senatorial division of Scarborough Junction. An honour of a different kind came two years later when O'Connor was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.

Letter from O'Connor to Fr. John V. Harris, Chancellor
May 13, 1937

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Most. Rev. Antoniutti, Apostolic Delegate to Canada, with Senator O'Connor
ca. 1938

Photograph by Frederick William Lyonde

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Senator O’Connor became ill in 1938. He moved to Florida to convalesce in early 1939 before returning to Toronto in the spring. Unfortunately, his health did not improve sufficiently to allow him to attend many events.

Telegram from Abp. McGuigan to Senator O'Connor
June 25, 1939

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Senator O’Connor was a sincere, generous, and very well-respected man. He died in his Toronto home, Maryvale, on August 21, 1939.

Letter from Senator A.C. Hardy to Abp. McGuigan after Senator O'Connor's funeral
August 28, 1939

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