Joke lover had the world on a string

October 24, 2004

Deepa Bharath

Many who knew Tom Connor didn't know him by his real name.

They knew him as Yo-yo, the guy who was there at the Costa Mesa

Senior Center at 8:30 in the morning to make sure the lunch room was

all set and good to go.

Yo-yo was not just a guy with a funny name. He was actually funny.

He had a different joke every time for anyone who asked him: "Hey


Yo-yo, what's with that name?"

It wasn't a name that was thrust upon him. He made up the name

four years ago, two years after his third wife, Phyllis, died. He

said the funny name reminded him of his wife, who made him laugh.

In fact, he was notorious in his family for giving himself

nicknames. Another popular one, especially when he called his

daughter at work, was Harry Hoofendorfer. No one knew how and where

these names originated, but they always seemed to make people smile.

One friend who tried to guess the origin of Yo-yo asked him if he

named himself after cellist Yo-Yo Ma. But she was way off-base. He

just turned around and asked her: "Who's that?"

Yo-yo didn't consciously try to make people laugh. It came to him


But at the same time, he was also a private person. He was

diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August. Doctors gave him three to

six months. But he made the most of it.

Yo-yo was born in Philadelphia. His favorite color was blue and he

loved football and Notre Dame. He prided himself on being 100% Irish

and could even pull off an accent, most of the time. But then, he

also spoke in a Chinese accent when he felt like it.

He was never loud or boisterous. He would tell jokes with a

serious face so that it would take you a few seconds to realize that

Yo-yo was actually pulling your leg.

He was industrious when it came to jokes. He downloaded them off

the Internet and was often seen cutting and pasting the ones he


Yo-yo always wore a large earring on one ear. He liked the

attention it drew. Mostly, he wore a large, square off-white clip-on

earring. Sometimes, he had it on top of his ear and other times, on

the ear lobe.

He loved it when people who passed him did a double-take on him.

Or when one of his family members said he couldn't go out with them

wearing that earring in one ear. He loved that. It was him.

For most of his life, he worked as an insurance salesman. He had

five children and he worked hard to provide for them. But money was

never a big deal for Yo-yo. He was an easy-going guy who lived

comfortably and never wanted for anything.

He loved his children and grandchildren. When he won bingo, he

would bring back muffins or cookies for them. He took his family on

vacations. But he liked peace and quiet, and for all his jokes,

enjoyed solitude.

Yo-yo's life in his later years revolved around the senior center.

He was always in charge of lunch. Early in the morning he took the

food out of dry storage so they would be ready for home delivery.

Yo-yo then made sure lunch tickets were ready. He counted the plates

for the meals and set the plates and silverware on the tables. He'd

leave at about 1:30, right after lunch.

Yo-yo never really talked about his cancer while other seniors

discussed their ailments.

To him, life was just too short not to laugh at a joke.

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