An insightful sports writer with a fighter’s spirit continues to inspire hope after his recent passing.
Long time ‘Pipe Dreams’ sports columnist, Bob Connolly, 73, died on Wednesday, December 23 due to complications from post-polio syndrome.
Born in Parkchester on October 28, 1942, Connolly was an avid sports fan whose passion for writing helped him overcome his physical disability.
Coincidently born on the feast day of St. Jude, the patron saint of desperate situations and lost causes, Connolly’s unshakable faith and hope would help him achieve his goals despite the many challenges he faced.
Diagnosed at age 12 with polio, Connolly underwent physical and occupational therapy to rebuild his strength after leaving the hospital.
However he had lost motor function in his left arm due to the spinal chord disease. Naturally left handed, Connolly learned to use his right hand instead.
Connolly attended school at St. Helena Elementary School and St. Helena High School before enrolling at St. John’s University in the 1960s.
He married his wife, Carol, on June 11, 1966 at St. Frances de Chantal.
The happy couple had four children, Sean, Erin, Jean and Judy who all became involved in sports, a passion held near and dear to Connolly who unfortunately could not actively participate due to his condition.
“He believed sports programs were very beneficial to helping us all learn about the importance of teamwork, problem solving, building self-confidence and physical health,” shared Erin Wilson, his daughter.
Wilson said her father went to St. John’s University part time, but eventually dropped out to focus on providing for his family.
She added Connolly was devoted to “serving his family, community and God.”
In the 1970s, Connolly was a Parkchester Little League coach for a few years while Sean was on the team before the family moved to Edgewater Park in 1976.
Connolly served as president and chaplain during his over 20-year career with the Edgewater Volunteer Firefighter Department.
Always active in his community, Connolly served as St. Raymonds High School for Boys’ Parent Association president from 1981 to 1985 and Preston High School’s Parent Association president from 1984 to 1997.
At age 50, Connolly graduated from SUNY Empire State College where he earned his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in English.
For nearly two decades, Connolly penned a weekly sports column for the Bronx Times Reporter titled ‘Pipe Dreams.’
He shared humorous stories or obscure facts about sports players, behind-the-scenes accounts of sporting events and promotions of up and coming figures in the sports world such as Bronx native professional boxer Maureen ‘The Real Million Dollar Baby’ Shea, each week
A boxing fan, Connolly was very involved with the Police Athletic League’s Golden Gloves which he often visited to cover events for his column.
Pugilists would frequently stop by his table to ask how Connolly was doing and to introduce him to the up and coming talent. As his condition progressed,
Connolly relied on a motorized wheelchair for mobility, but never lost his trademark loving and humorous personality, according to Sean.
Conolly’s family credited the Throggs Neck Benevolent Association for supporting their father’s fight by providing him with ambulette transport to receive treatment and installing ramps as well as widening their home’s doorways to accommodate his wheelchair.
A natural story teller, Connolly was also a well-known literary enthusiast who enjoyed reading works penned by O. Henry, Jack London and James Patterson. In his spare time, Connolly also ran a website called ourpi
His last Pipe Dreams column was published in the December 18 to 24 edition of the Bronx Times, the week of his passing.
Though diagnosed with advanced stage four melanoma five years ago, the ever determined Connolly defeated the cancer by seeking treatment at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care.
Connolly was waked on Sunday, December 27 at Schuyler Hill Funeral Home and a Mass at St. Frances de Chantal Church was held for him the next day.
He was cremated at Woodlawn Crematory and will be laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery, according to his family.
In lieu of flowers, Connolly’s family asks donations instead be made to the Throggs Neck Benevolent Association to help others in their time of need.
Connolly is survived by his wife, Carol; their son, Sean and three daughters Erin, Jean and Judy, their seven granddaughters Mary Kate, Caitlin, Leila, Megan, Gabrielle, Theresa and Mallory and his siblings James, Gerry, Regina and Marilyn.
“My nickname is ‘coach’ and that became possible all because of my dad,” said Sean, Our Lady of Mount Carmel girls JV basketball and Lady Hawks coach.
“He taught me the values of being a coach and that respect is something you don’t get, you earn. Every time whether my team wins or loses, we always show respect to our opponents. I will always continue carrying on his values to keep his memory alive,” he added.