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John R. Connolly, 97, World War II veteran, GM worker

June 2, 1922 – Sept. 16, 2019

John R. “Bucky” Connolly parachuted onto Utah Beach on D-Day in 1944 — but he didn’t like to dwell on his experiences as a soldier.

“He was one of those World War II vets who didn’t talk about it, although he did in later years,” his daughter Suzanne Connolly said. “Some people would hear some stories, some people would hear other stories, but I don’t think anybody knows all the stories.”

The stories included how, as a paratrooper in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, he served as a bodyguard to Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor, commander of the 101st, during the division’s jump into Normandy.

He also would tell how, while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, he spent Christmas with his unit, surrounded by enemy forces, with only a raw potato and a raw onion for his holiday dinner.

He attained the rank of sergeant and was awarded the Bronze Star, but turned down a recommendation for a Purple Heart because he did not consider an injury caused by the chin strap on his helmet to be worthy of recognition.

“My father was extremely modest,” his daughter said. “He wouldn’t accept that when people were losing their limbs and losing their lives.”

A longtime Cheektowaga resident, he died Sept. 16 after a short illness. He was 97.

Born in Chester, Pa., the fifth of eight children, he came to the Buffalo area with his family as a teen. An outstanding athlete at Canisius High School, where he graduated in 1941, he was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Awarded a basketball scholarship to Niagara University, he attended for two years, then left to serve in World War II.

Returning from service, he completed his bachelor’s degree in history at Canisius College and took a variety of jobs. While working for the Internal Revenue Service, he met Mary Perrin, a clerk there, and they were married in 1949.

Preferring to work with his hands, for 17 years he worked with a small manufacturer in Buffalo that did business with General Motors. After that company closed, in 1972, Mr. Connolly found a job at the GM Tonawanda Engine Plant.

A skilled machine repairman, he retired in 2001, at the age of 79.

A New York Yankees, Buffalo Bills and college basketball fan, he enjoyed attending and watching many sporting events.

He followed horse racing — especially the Triple Crown — and regularly spent time at Off-Track Betting parlors after he retired.

A devout Catholic, for many years he attended Mass daily.

His wife died in 1994.

Survivors include another daughter, Janellen Reznicek; a son, John R.; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was offered Sept. 21 in Infant of Prague Catholic Church, 921 Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga.

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