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James Edward CONNELL

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James Edward CONNELL Obituary

CONNELL, James Edward

On Tuesday September 24, 2013 at 4:35 p.m., God requested an angel and Fire Captain James Edward Connell was called to heaven. He was born on April 15, 1939 to Joseph and Agnes Connell and lived his life serving and helping others. Jim died peacefully with his wife and daughters by his side, holding his hands. He was greeted in heaven by his beloved sisters Clare Louise Connell and Marie Barrea, his beloved brother Francis Barrea and his wife Joanie. His daughter's fiancée and fellow fire fighter, William A. Hunt, also greets him in heaven with open arms. Jim led an extraordinary life and was loved by everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. He was the kindest and most compassionate man - People who knew him would sing his praises to his children at every opportunity: "Oh that Jimmy's a peach!" "Your dad is a wonderful man", and "We love Jimmy". And they did….as did his wife of 40 years, Anna Jane Connell, who he lovingly called "A.J.". In addition to his wife, Jim leaves five children who loved him more than life itself - Peter M. Connell, Nancy A. Connell, Maureen C. D'Annibale, Mary C. Graham and Lenny Lacey. Jim did more than raise his children. He taught them compassion, kindness, humility, love, grace and sacrifice. His children are who they are today because of this great man that God sent to them. Jim leaves behind his very special son-in-laws Martin Graham and John D'Annibale and daughter-in-laws Susan Lacey and Valerie Connell. Jim had six grandchildren whom he adored. His smile was never wider, his eyes never brighter - then when his grandchildren walked in the room. "Papa" would spend hours with them playing games and putting together toys with his 'special' clippers that he kept in his pocket everyday just for this occasion. There was no time limit set on how long he would sit on the porch with Samantha and wave to the cars as they passed by…No time limit on weekly phone calls with his grandsons who wanted to share with Papa all the good things in their lives. Jim had a very special and unique bond with each: Samantha "Tooth" Graham, James Lacey, Peter Connell, Kris Connell, Jeremy Lacey and Jaime Sweeney. He also leaves behind his nieces Toni-Gail Espinosa and Jeanne Crum and nephew Michael Barrea, all who adored their 'Uncle Jimmy', as well as his brother Donald Barrea and his wife Pam. Jim attended St. Joseph's and Windham High School. After graduation, Jim proudly served his country from 1957 to 1961 in the U.S. Air Force. Continuing his life of serving the community, Jim became a Patrol Officer with the Willimantic Police Department and served from 1961 through 1966. From there, Jim found his lifetime calling - one of heroism and courage - he became a Fire Fighter with the Willimantic Fire Department from 1966 until he retired as Captain in 1993. His second family was his brothers at the Willimantic Fire House and it is there that he worked his dream job. From helping Mrs. Fenton cross the street during the Valentine's Day structure fire, standing at intersections to 'fill the boot', taking his family on camping trips, cruising the oceans with his wife, answering phones on Labor Day to raise money for The Jimmy Fund, jumping in the river in the middle of winter to save his dog Casey who fell through the ice, dressing like Clancy the Clown for parades, showing elementary school children the fire house and trucks, taking his sons 'up north' on hunting trips…..Jim was an outstanding citizen, husband, mentor, role model, father, brother. And when his license plate number and car model was called out on his scanner late one night by police because the driver and passengers were having Chinese Fire Drills in the middle of Main Street…he simply asked his two daughters when they arrived home "How was your evening?" Forever calm and reasonable……that was Jim. He never sweated the small stuff….and it was all small stuff. His glass was always half full. He had the patience of a saint. His beautiful blue eyes shined like stars. He was grateful for each and every day he lived and even more grateful for his 40 years with his wife and his family. His doctor's called him their 'miracle' patient. And his family called him their cat - he had nine lives and lived each one to its fullest. Jim's family extends their deepest gratitude to the ICU and 3rd floor nurses at South Bay Medical Center in Sun City Center, FL. Dorothy, Mary Lou and Lisa - the most gracious, compassionate and talented nurses. And a special and profound thank you to Monic who spent days and nights caring for Jim….for her kindness, words of comfort, hand holding and providing Jim with the care and dignity he deserved….thank you. He doesn't wiggle his ears for just anybody….but he did for you.
His family will receive relatives and friends on October 5, 2013 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Potter Funeral Home, 456 Jackson St., Willimantic with a celebration of Jim's life and all the love he brought to this world at 12 p.m. The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Willimantic Fire Department. Thank you for keeping our fire fighters safe so they can continue to save our lives: Willimantic Fire Fighters, Local 1033, PO Box 115, Willimantic, CT 06226. Please visit www.potterfuneralhome.com for online memorial guest book.

Published in The Hartford Courant on Sept. 28, 2013
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