significant loss in our lives is processed only gradually. Ever so painfully, we move in stages toward final acceptance. During the end stages of my husband’s terminal illness, when I could no longer experience his companionship, his insight, and, most especially, his glorious voice, I found some comfort in rediscovering that voice in his writings. As Gene once said about a dear friend, “One of the great peculiarities of death is that it can stop the breath, but it cannot still the voice of one we love.” A BOY FROM LAWRENCE is my scrapbook of healing. And for all readers it opens up the world of a master teacher, who inspires, informs, and urges us to live well and “Do good.” — Sally A. Connolly ***************************
A BOY FROM LAWRENCE: The Collected Writings of Eugene F. Connolly Edited by Sally A. Connolly
The book about Gene is “a lovely labor of love and affection and respect, and most gracefully catches his greatness. . . . I am a better man for having read the book.” — Brian Doyle, editor of The Best Catholic Writing 2006
You have captured the boy and the man. . . . I feel as if I have just spent three days in Gene’s company. His words drew me in and I was blessed to live in his world, if only briefly. — Patricia P., Atkinson, New Hampshire
Filled with wisdom, laughter, wonderful memories and many inspirational thoughts and words, the writings give the reader the essence of the man. . . . What started out as a therapeutic project . . . is now in print, a lasting treasure for others. — Myrna Fearer, The Danvers Herald
Thank you for making this book a reality. . . .I will reread [it] all my life for inspiration and encouragement. — Karen N., Topsfield, MA
So beautiful, I am weeping—in my older years I find that beauty makes me weep. — Bro. John Alexius, Jamaica, NY
This is the man who changed my life. I have just completed my teaching degree. Thank you, Mrs. Connolly. — Terresa S., graduate, Northern Essex Community College
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS Q: What is A BOY FROM LAWRENCE about? A BOY FROM LAWRENCE is a collection of the writings of my late husband, a gifted and beloved teacher. Included are some early poems, essays, and reflections as well as tributes to friends and relatives. Q: Why did you write the book? The loss of Gene’s full companionship inspired the book. Gene had suffered a stroke during a biopsy for a brain tumor; and after six months of hospitalization and therapy he had returned home. With the assistance of our children, who made it possible for me to shop on Saturdays and go to church on Sundays, I became his caregiver for the next eight months. We had always encouraged Gene to preserve his life story, but other projects had intervened. He was finally beginning the process, “searching for a voice.” I began my scrapbook of his writings as a form of personal healing. In the process, I discovered Gene’s voice in the consistency and beauty of the works he had already written; and my healing began. Q: Who would benefit from reading A BOY FROM LAWRENCE? Anyone seeking enrichment and greater recognition of the beauty in each day and in each person would enjoy stepping into Gene’s world. Faith was central in Gene’s life, and his works reflect a deep, joyous spirituality. Q: Do you have a favorite story from the book? There are so many favorites in A BOY FROM LAWRENCE, but one that exemplifies Gene’s hope for every child is “the Kelly story”: When my children were young, one of our friends, a high-school principal, used to say to me “Your children are so lucky. They are never going to have any trouble speaking perfect English. Having two teachers for parents, they won’t know what grammatical errors are. What a great advantage!” One winter day not long after the last time he said that I was sitting in my study working when my youngest daughter, Kelly, walked in. She was four. She said, “Hi, Dad!!” She was dressed in a brand-new outfit: a beautiful light-gray coat and matching hat, long stockings, and shining new shoes. A pony-tail hung below the back of the hat; wide brown eyes were sparkling; and two pink cheeks were glowing. I said, “Hi, Kell!” Where are you going?” She said, “I’m going to the Dentist.” Thinking that he might prove to be an ally and say something to her about cookies and candy and cavities, I
asked, “And what is he going to say to you?” She said, “He’s going to say, ‘Isn’t you beautiful?” I’m telling you about Kelly because you are going to have days when clouds are hanging heavy; when the sun isn’t very bright; and you are bent low, wondering who you are and whether anything is worthwhile. On those days, I hope that you will have your own Kelly, who will walk into your life, look you in the eye, and say to you, “Isn’t you beautiful?” And I hope that every day you will say that to yourself. Q. Can you tell us more about your background and Gene’s? Gene was trained as a Marist Brother. He later became supervisor of management training at Western Electric in North Andover and then spent thirty-seven years as professor of Communications at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill. He earned a master’s degree in English from St. John’s University in New York and a doctorate in higher education from Boston College. I studied sociology and social psychology at Merrimack College and The Catholic University of America. We both graduated college as valedictorians; but as I often pointed out to Gene, there were only ten in his graduating class, the first at Marist College. Gene and I met when we were both teaching in community colleges—he, at Northern Essex Community College and I, at North Shore Community College. Our family quickly expanded to include three daughters and one son. Thirty-seven years later, we are proof that blind dates can sometimes work out. After the birth of our first child, I happily became a stay-at-home mom. I have always believed that the early years in a child’s life are crucial for their well-being. When the children were ages two through eight, I returned to school to earn a master’s degree in counseling and guidance and rejoined the field of education as a high school counselor. I have since retired, but I remain active in local and state counseling organizations and continue to edit and publish the monthly newsletter for the Massachusetts School Counselors Association. Q: Is there anything else you would like us to know about Gene or the book? Teaching was central to Gene’s life, and his faith was the guiding force. He was most “fully human, fully alive” when in the classroom. Although officially retired, Gene continued to teach until his final illness, and he would often return from class excited about being able to inspire his students, who were several generations younger. He would be thrilled to know that he is still reaching out to others, helping them live a more meaningful life.
Q: What would Gene want readers to take away from his book? Gene was essentially a teacher; he loved the art of teaching and he loved his students. He believed in the goodness of each person, and his greatest joy would be to see the reader joyfully walk away from this intimate classroom with a greater recognition of self-worth and endless possibilities.