Tuesday September 27, 2011

Thomas Michael Connolly had your back, my back and pretty much advocated for any cause that seemed unjust. Described as an urban and anti-poverty leader, Connolly was the son of Irish immigrants. Happy, hearty and jovial, his Irish DNA was forever worn on his sleeve.

A 1943 St. Joe graduate, Connolly for all intents and purpose, was born to lead. As a GE employee, Connolly rose through the blue-collar labor ranks from shop steward, to chief top steward and finally the chief negotiator for IUE 255, which had most of the plant's blue-collar workers under its umbrella.

You know how it goes sometimes. So impressed was GE with Connolly's work at the labor level, it promoted him to a management position and it wasn't long before Connolly had earned the George L. Phillippe Award for distinguished service within the Pittsfield community. He retired from GE in 1985.

Connolly could never sit still. He was one of the early board members of Action for Opportunity the first anti-poverty agency in the county. Having been born with the Irish gift of gab and being of the "Ol' Sod," Connolly used what he learned during his GE negotiating days to further the agendas of agencies like Action for Opportunity.

Connolly, it's written, always knew where he stood. He told a friend once, "I count the votes before the meeting." Those votes, it should be mentioned, usually went in his favor.

He served as chairman of the Pittsfield Urban Coalition in the late 1960s and was co-chairman of the Community School Building Commission, which worked toward the construction of both Conte and Morningside elementary schools.

Connolly was active in many community activities and was an active and avid golfer until his passing at age 70. He enlisted in the Navy upon graduation from St. Joe and suffered a severe leg injury while in the service of the USS Laffey. It prevented Connolly from a possible career as a professional golfer.

It worked out OK, I guess, because Connolly found other things to do. And Pittsfield benefited greatly.