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Friendship Kelly & Teresa's remarkable bond What did they have in common? How had it changed their lives? BY SALLY A. CONNOLLY

Eugene Connolly and granddaughter, Kaitlyn

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s Kelly Colby walked her daughter Kaitlyn to her new, first-grade classroom, she hesitated. Tightening her grip on her daughter’s hand, she hoped that her father’s wish for Kaitlyn would come true. A lifelong educator, Papa — known to most as Professor Eugene Connolly — had always hoped for a warm and enthusiastic first grade teacher for his granddaughter. Papa’s own devotion to teaching had been cut short two years earlier by a brain tumor. During his illness, Kelly’s world collapsed into a series of hospital visits and constant worry. To ease the pain of his extended illness and passing, Kelly sought to make new connections in her community. A new job at the Black Cow, a local restaurant, led to a great friendship with a fellow waitress named Teresa. They supported each other as Kelly grieved her father’s passing, and as Teresa faced the uncertainty of a potentially serious medical condition. They shared the


joys and tribulations of balancing work, family, and education. Teresa’s dream of becoming a teacher had begun years earlier at the local community college, and she struggled to work a full schedule while completing her courses and student teaching. One evening, Teresa’s father stopped by the restaurant. In him, Kelly caught a glimpse of her own father — a good, special man who dearly loved his family. I wish Teresa could have met my dad, she thought. The next day, Kelly brought a collection of her father’s writings to work. His book, A Boy from Lawrence, revealed her father’s spiritual journey — from his boyhood in Massachusetts to young adulthood as a Marist Brother, and, eventually, to devoted husband, father, and teacher. She hoped the handsome face of her father smiling on the cover, and his voice, so clearly heard in his writings, would give Teresa some insight into the man she cherished. On a large sticky note, Kelly wrote, “Teresa, this is my dad. Love, Kelly.” She pasted the note across the face on the cover and left the book on the back table. When Teresa returned to work, she greeted the book eagerly. But as she peeled off the note, she burst into tears and exclaimed, “This is the man who changed my life! He was my favorite professor in school. He believed in me and in my dream when no one else did. On my last day of class, his words of encouragement gave me the boost I needed. Just this week I received my teaching certificate.” Kelly was amazed at the connection. A short time later, a difficult pregnancy requiring extended bed rest forced Kelly to leave work. The two women lost touch, as all of Kelly’s energy was devoted to keeping herself and her child healthy. Her newborn son Jack arrived early — just in time for the beginning of Kaitlyn’s first day of first grade. Now, nervous yet hopeful, Kelly gave Kaitlyn’s hand one final squeeze as she walked into the classroom with her daughter. A woman turned to face them. It was Teresa! The old friend had returned from Spain the previous week. Now, with her teacher preparation completed and her credentials in hand, she was ready to begin her dream career. Teresa had accepted a position as assistant teacher in one of the school’s five firstgrade classrooms. With kisses, hugs, and tears all around, Teresa gently clasped Kaitlyn’s hand in hers, walked her to a table, and offered her the materials she would need to begin. CD

Sally A. Connolly, widow of the late Professor Connolly, is a retired school counselor and teacher, and editor of A Boy from Lawrence: The Collected Writings of Eugene F. Connolly (2006). For info, visit www.freewebs.com/aboyfromlawrence. http://www.catholicdigest.com/article/kelly -teresas-remarkable-bond


Kelly & Teresa's Remarkable Bond