Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 18, 2002
Terry Connelly gave with both hands
Food Bank, football, Christophers all benefited
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Director Pat Bergstrom remembers her worry when the Edmonton Food Bank shelves would start to look a little bare.
But those pangs of concern would evaporate as Terry Connelly came through the door carrying armloads of food. Come winter time, he added coats, scarves, boots and anything else people without might need.
Terry couched his giving-with-both-hands charity with just one condition.
He must remain anonymous. Bergstrom could tell no one about Terry's sharing with strangers.
"His interest in the Food Bank came from his deep commitment that he was responsible for everybody else and that is rooted in his faith," the now-retired Bergstrom said.
Edmonton knew Terry as a funeral director, co-chair of Alberta Christopher Leadership Program and as a top-rated amateur football official.
Connelly died Feb. 14 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 53.
Talking about his brother's professional life, twin brother Gerry said, "Terry loved to do the funerals. He was a people person. He treated everyone with utmost care and was always there to help people."
Gerry remembered that if his brother felt somebody was about to spend more than they could afford, he had a polite way of suggesting something else that would save them money.
"And he always remained calm and friendly, even when some families were not too nice."
Terry had profound empathy for families, going beyond what he had to do for them professionally, Gerry said. He paid attention to the smallest of details as he organized, arranged and even attended the funerals.
He did all this because he believed being a funeral director was a mission God had given him.
Bergstrom recalled Terry saying, "I felt I was called by God to do this because I am so comfortable dealing with the bereaved and I am happy to be able to do things for them."
Bergstrom met Terry back in the 1980s when they took the Christopher Leadership Program program together.
"He stammered when he talked," Bergstrom said. "But that was changed in the program and he became a very effective teacher."
Another gift Terry shared was his ability to make people believe in themselves. "I can help you with that," or "That's going to be okay," became familiar refrains for Terry's friends.
Collette Orieux, another Christopher contemporary, said, "He was a very positive, supportive, funny guy and he had a great sense of humour. He was sensitive and had a way of offering positive comments when people seemed down, or were not happy with their performance."
Terry was there as a coach for his new Christopher team, but never failed to support other teams by offering positive feedback. "A real treasure of our organization, Terry was always upbeat and focused on strengths of the people," said Orieux.
That caring didn't stop, even as Terry battled cancer. During his final days, Terry still would not forget to send Mass cards, greeting cards, flowers and gifts on special occasions.
Just weeks before he died, a young woman whom he met through the Christopher program visited him at his parents' home on the day of her wedding. She wanted to have her photo taken with her groom and Terry. True to his I'll-be-there-for-you ethics, Terry donned a robe and stood for the photo.
The loss to the Christopher Program and the Connelly-McKinley Funeral Home is also a loss to Canada's amateur football officials.
Terry started refereeing in the high school football league in 1975, moving on to college league and later becoming a CFL referee.
Brian Small, vice-president of football officials in Edmonton, said of Terry, "He was the best amateur referee in Canada. He was an honourable, compassionate man who would do anything for his friends and would go the extra mile to help out."
He has always given others the chance to excel and led others by example, Small said.
Terry reffed his final game Nov. 3, 2001. It was the Canadian Bowl between junior powers Saskatoon and Okanagan. Days later, he was diagnosed with cancer. Terry leaves his wife Theresa, sons Brendan and Kevin and a community made better because of his Catholic caring.