John Edward Connell (Jack) lived a long and productive life, full of youthful shenanigans, years of hard work, lots of kids, two lengthy marriages, even more grandkids and quite a few great grandkids.
Jack had eight children and two step-children, Anne, Jean, Kathleen, John Edward II (Edward)(deceased), Terry, Rebecca, Meg, Chris, Martie, and Brad. He had 23 grandchildren (including step), Daniel, Jason, Kevin, Jaynie, Andrew, Jonathan, Maeve, Barry, Rachel, Josh, Emma, Ben, Nathan, Tim, Abigail, Alexander, Roan, Christopher, Amy, Emily, Laura, Finn, and Lily. He also had 11 great grandchildren, Jasper, Matius, Ender, Jamie, Amy, Lydia, Cadence, Autumn, Cheyenne, Johnny and Zeke.
Jack was the third son born to Donald Connell and Felicita Chiamparino. He was raised in San Francisco along with his two older brothers, Don and Jerry. During the war, their father bought a small house in Occidental to keep his wife and three boys safe. His father would work and live in the city and come home to Occidental on the weekends. They always had stories about when they lived with their mom up in the country, their life full of hard work, going to a one-room schoolhouse and all the other mischief and pranks along the way. “Those Connell boys” had quite the reputation in Occidental.
He attended Riordan High School, an all-boys Catholic school, in San Francisco. He was an average student, but he excelled in high school track. He still holds one of Riordan’s track records. He went on to San Francisco City College (SFCC) where he got his AA. He transferred to Cal Berkeley and completed one semester before deciding to join the U.S. Army.
While at SFCC, he met and married Anne Hanley (deceased) and they had eight children together. They were married for 27 years.
While enlisted in the U.S. Army, he was stationed in Germany. Anne joined him and their first daughter, Anne Felice, was born there. Jack was in the Army Medical Service and was honorably discharged with the rank of PFC. He was also awarded the Good Conduct Medal.
Jack and Anne moved back to the Bay Area from Germany, then to Sacramento, then back to the Bay Area again, eventually settling in Fremont in 1965, when Fremont was considered the ‘boondocks.’ They were both actively involved in their children’s lives and Holy Spirit Catholic Church, the church and school that their children attended.
He was involved in the Men’s Club, the Knights of Columbus and CYO, where he coached track and made each of his kids join the track team - whether they wanted to or not!
He was quite the negotiator. He worked two to three jobs at a time to provide for his large family. He’d work a deal for the tuition at the Catholic school, the bread at the bread store and getting shoes at the shoe store. Wherever he could save money and cut costs, he did.
His main career was as an underwriter for workman’s compensation insurance. He held many positions in different insurance companies and climbed his way up the ladder. He had a successful and profitable career.
He worked in the city and loved having his kids work in the office file room, typing or answering phones. He was very proud of having them there and ecstatic about the cheap labor! He always made sure that all of the children who worked with him had work permits!
He loved eating lunch in the city, going for deli sandwiches, and he especially loved the big coconut macaroon cookies. A lunchtime, a walk with Jack was basically a sprint around downtown and North Beach. He always enjoyed walking fast. He could walk up to Molinari’s, order sandwiches, and get back to the office in record time.
Jack was always around to provide advice, show someone how to do something or help with a project. He and his talented neighbor made the large kitchen dining table that was used for all their family dinners – it sat all nine of them! He gave good advice about how much insurance was necessary, and lots of financial advice (many times unsolicited), always stressing the importance of eliminating your debt.
He thought all should select a well-paying career. He said if your salary amount was larger than your age you were doing well (that was so much truer during his generation than his children’s)! He also stressed the importance of owning your own home.
He and his brothers would gather their three families together every Thanksgiving. They used to rotate who would host the holiday dinner, until it was permanently moved to Occidental for the annual event. Each year, the brothers would share stories about the good old days growing up in Occidental and other memories from that time. After dinner, the brothers would move to the kitchen table and the three of them would play pinochle late into the night. The kids and cousins all knew to stay out of their way while playing – they had some serious competition going on!
The Occidental Thanksgiving tradition went on for more than 35 years. The last few years saw more than 50 family members attending. In the Connell tradition, there was always room at the table for one more! The celebration of Thanksgivings in Occidental remains a dear memory for all of the Connells.
He later met and married Lois Van der Mark Peters (deceased). They were married for almost 30 years. She had two children and they all moved into the Fremont house together. They eventually sold that house and moved into a new home in Livermore, where they lived for about 15 years.
Jack took an early retirement and did some actuarial consulting work. He had a plethora of health issues, including being a liver transplant recipient in 1995, but would never let any of them beat him. He had a strong will to live. He had more lives than a cat and solidly earned a couple of nicknames - The Bionic Man and The Phoenix!
He and Lois loved to travel and play dominoes, cribbage and rummy. They were world travelers and would go on world cruises for up to three or four months at a time. At last count, he had racked up more than 900 days at sea! He loved being catered to, meeting people and seeing the world.
When they arrived in Livermore, Jack and Lois joined the Elks Club, where he served a couple of terms as the treasurer. He enjoyed the friends he met there and at the local Eagles club. He was honored to volunteer and serve meals to veterans and early on in their membership, he and Lois would take on cooking for the club for the Friday night dinners.
He appreciated a good filet mignon and a slice of coconut cream pie. He had a sweet tooth and would happily taste anything sweet that was offered. He was adamant that there would never be any broccoli on his plate, and he didn’t drink or smoke. He used to tell stories of when his parents caught them smoking as young men and how they would make them smoke a very strong, disgusting Italian cigar to nip that habit in the bud.
His last goal was to reach 85. He was stubborn and independent and lived his life on his terms as much as he could. COVID-19 made this last year very difficult for all. Thankfully, he was very computer literate and was able to stay in touch via his phone. He knew his way around most video chatting platforms, so he kept in touch with his family, no matter what type of phone they had. His children also started a weekly Zoom Family Happy Hour during the shelter in place this past year. He stayed connected until the end.
He will be missed. It makes all of his children happy to know that he will now be reunited with his brothers in that big pinochle game in heaven.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Jack’s name to UCSF Liver Transplant Services, UCSF Foundation – Liver Transplant Services-B1916, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA, 94145-0339, or makeagift.ucsf.edu. Once in the site select, “Direct your gift to a specific area.” Select “Other” among the many choices and then type in “Liver Transplant Services B1916” then select “Continue.”