John F. Connors Jr. died peacefully in his sleep on Dec. 25 at his home in Edgartown with his wife by his side. He was 85.

Born on June 21, 1936 to the late John (Jack) and Dorothy Connors, he was raised in Syracuse, N.Y. and was a former resident of Southborough, Boston, Sanibel and San Francisco. He graduated from the Cathedral School in 1953 and Manlius Military School in 1954 where he was a gifted student and a standout in baseball and basketball.

He continued his athletic and academic career at St. Bonaventure University, graduating with honors in 1958. He was a member of the varsity basketball team with a career culminating in appearances in the NIT Final Four, designation as captain and team MVP, and a Top 20 national team ranking during his senior year. He was inducted into the St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

John married the love of his life, the former Carolyn L. Byrnes of Syracuse, at Blessed Sacrament. They had five children and built a beautiful life together. John and Carolyn were well known cyclists who enjoyed biking into their later years, logging thousands of miles on paths around the world.

He served his military commitment to the Army, stationed at Fort Sill, Okla. and Fort Devens, and departed as a second lieutenant in 1961.

His business career began in the training program with General Electric in Syracuse, focusing on the then-emerging telecommunications industry. In 1966, he received a master’s degree in business from Oklahoma City University, graduating with top honors and receiving the most outstanding student award.

Over the next decade he worked as an executive with several companies prior to founding Graphic Management Associates of Southborough and Allentown, Pa., where he served as president and CEO. In 1996, he sold the business to Mueller Martini of Switzerland. He also co-founded and served as president of National Inserting Systems in Allentown.

A strong believer that “no one makes it alone” in life, John was a lifelong champion of social and civil right causes and Democratic politics. He joined the St. Bonaventure University board of trustees in 2000 and he and Carolyn founded the Robert C. Conroy Memorial Internship, an ecumenical program encouraging students to explore issues related to peace, individual faith and social justice.

He also served on the board at St. Francis House of Boston, the largest day shelter in Massachusetts, where he founded and supported the Carolyn L. Connors Women’s Center.

He and Carolyn avidly supported Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and its annual Possible Dreams auction, at times making headlines with generous bids on such items as an in-home performance by Carly Simon.

He was a friend to all, hosting political fundraising events for members of the Senate and Congress, including John Lewis. He enjoyed moderating Sanibel island’s current events series and engaging with friends at Dot’s Diner and its infamous think tank gatherings on Saturdays. However, his favorite place to hold court was around his Edgartown dining room table, visited by hundreds of summer guests over the years and often inspiring spirited political discussions — and even a few changed minds.

In addition to his loving wife of 63 years, he is survived by their five children, Kelley Connors and her spouse Julien Jarreau, Michael Connors and his wife Lisa, Skip Connors and his wife Rachel Roberge, Terry Connors and spouse Gillian Patrick, Kara Connors and her husband Michael Miskovsky; seven grandchildren, two step grandchildren, a great-grandchild and two step great-grandchildren; and seven nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his sister Sheila Connors.

A celebration of life will be held in the spring of 2022.

Donations can be made to St. Francis House, 7 Boylston Square, Boston, MA 02116 (attention: Teresa McDonough) or Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, 111 Edgartown-Vineyard Rd., Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 (attention: Rebecca Pierce).