I remember seeing Mr. Connelly pushing
his cart to the A&P. He was a proud and humble man doing his best
providing for his family. Always had a smile and walked briskly
and was quick to greet everyone he met on his journey. To me he
showed that he had courage to do what ever he needed to do to support
his family even if he had to push a home made cart miles to do so.
I was privilege to know the whole Connelly family. Truly a great
Newark proud Irish family with the can do sprite and spunk. My mother
would remark to us on how wonderful it was to see Mr. Connelly walking
(again briskly) with his sons going to Church each Sunday morning,
in perfect unison and determination to go worship the Lord. Again
the smile and greeting Good Morning “Mrs. Desranleau” as they walked
My two older brothers Pierre and Jacques got to know the two older
Connelly brothers Pat and Tom, who became very good friends. One
day they had a contest of finding out who had the tougher little
brother from both family, was one the better scrapper? That how
my best friend and I got introduced. I had never seen him up to
this time. There we were, 5 ½ and 6 year old boys, both of us were
pushed into a circle edged on by our older brothers to fight like
gladiators it was suppose to be a fight to the death. The year was
1957. The fight ended in a draw.
I did not see my opponent again till I went to the first grade.
The rest is history – he and I went through all eight years together
in St Antonius.
3rd Grade. We had a real tuff Nun – I mean she really should not
have been allowed to teach children – Kids in the class peed in
their clothes they were so intimidated of her wrath. She had categorize
me as dead lumber and discarded into the retarded row with the beyond
helpless dummies of the class which was the death sentence of having
this nut again next year!
I thought about it all summer that I was going to be left back.
Come September a new young pretty teacher named Miss Norton was
going to teach the fourth grade. The old scary nun was gone. Miss
Norton came to the third grade class room to gather your new class.
We were told to stand up and line up to go upstairs. So I got up
also, just then Miss Norton caught her mistake and asked that the
following students go back to their seat to repeat the 3rd grade.
When she got to my name she could not pronounce it correctly.
There were two John’s in this class, me and John Rommel who happened
to be the smartest kid in class. John Rommel turned around to me
in line and said “Hey” John that’s you, go sit down!. Just as I
was about to seal my faith and sit down I heard “Hey” Rommel that’s
you she's talking about so shut up!. Then she said to me Stay in
Line. So I walked right into this bright new class room with the
pretty teacher and all my Classmates. I buckled down and did my
best work and got good grades.
James Connelly The younger brother who I had fight years before
gave me a second chance.
Then it came to go to High School – I was suppose to go to West
Side High School – (Which I would have been the only white kid there
and probable not lasted a month) Mrs. Connelly suggested that I
use their home address as my residence so I could go the Vailsburg
HS instead. So for thee years I lived in the imaginary third floor
over the Connelly's on Twentieth Street. (If it was not for that
address I surly would not graduated High School)
When I was in the end of my Junior year in Vailsburg I was going
to turn 18 in June. While I was over the Connelly house, Mr. Connelly
who in my eyes was a true American having served 7 years in the
army in world war II give me advice that I should not register at
this time but to wait until I was out of high school, by then the
war might cool down and I would have an additional year. If it was
any one else other then Mr. Connelly telling me this I would have
registered that June – but knowing that this advise was coming from
veteran who saw this war was nothing but a quagmire and it was hopeless
– I did what he told me. I did register on my 19th birthday played
dumb – went for my physical = passed – sworn in – then the lottery
came out and my number was 360 = safe. "Thank You Mr. Connelly"
Growing up in the West Ward of Newark was no picnic, but God blessed
me by having me know the Connelly’s. They taught me many values
that has helped shape me as a person that I am today. It was they
that instilled in me my great Love of this Country. Also what a
real friend is all about.
Jim and I have gone thru it all – Grade School – High School We
were each other Best Man. God Father for the first born on each
side. My wife and I are called Aunt and Uncle by their kids and
visa versa for ours. Plus the memory of all the things that happened
in Newark. My family and theirs have never been out of touch all
these years. It is truly a God given gift to have life long friends.
My Salute to the best Family and friend that I got to know in
Newark “The Connelly’s” I will always consider Mrs. Connelly my
second mother God Rest Her Soul.
P. S. I was the accomplice in the candy bar caper in the A&P.
John Desranlesu is a Car Show Photographer.
You can view his work at: