Published November 13, 2020
MONROE–Deacon Jerry Connell of St. Anna Church died peacefully on Nov. 3 at his home in Monroe. He was 85 years old. He was surrounded by family and was listening to some of his favorite music from the Steubenville deacon’s retreats. Family members across the country were on the same phone call joining in with prayers, sharing stories, songs, laughs and tears as he took his last breath.
Deacon Connell made life fun just by showing up. His love of life, compassion and sense of humor endeared him to anyone he met. He was a man of God and lived his faith daily.
Gerald “Jerry” Francis Connell was born Nov. 23, 1934, in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Charles and Evelyn Connell.
As a child, Jerry played down the street at an orphanage. His brother, Charles, had died of spinal meningitis and his other two siblings had died close to birth. Jerry enjoyed the company of the orphans. They impacted his life forever.
Jerry was a regular altar server for the bishop and had an aunt who was a nun. His family moved to Atlanta when he was a teenager. He attended Marist School, played football and graduated from Northside High School.
The deacon proudly served his country in the United States Navy during the Korean War. He served on the USS Navasota. When he returned from the Navy, he attended the University of Georgia and graduated with a business administration degree.
Jerry married his best friend, Peggy Eady, on Aug. 29, 1959 in Carrollton. They were both students at UGA and had met on a trip to St. Simon’s. They were blessed with four children.
The Connells moved from Athens to Monroe to own and operate the Credit Bureau of Winder & Monroe. They also later owned and operated Connell Printing Company.
He was ordained a deacon for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1987. Active in their parish and with Cursillo, they led retreats and hosted Cursillo mini reunions at their home.
The Connells enjoyed the country life on their land known as “Freedom.” They welcomed many to their table and great memories were made there.
Deacon Connell and an ecumenical group of ministers started an organization called Faith In Serving Humanity (FISH) to serve the poor. FISH recently delivered 191,000 meals to children that were out of school for COVID-19 and summer break. FISH helps needy families in Walton County with food, clothing, medical and dental needs.
Jerry was a wonderful Scout leader and his Scouts kept in touch through the years because he was like a second dad to them. Jerry was involved in his children’s lives with Toastmasters and the 4-H Club. He shared his love of nature, cooking, public speaking, traveling and photography. Jerry was also the Chairman of the Board of Elections in Walton County for 32 years and it seemed fitting to his family that he died on Election Day.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Peggy Eady Connell; his children: Catherine Connell Forsch (Tim Forsch) of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Cindy Connell Palmer (Hayne Palmer) of Monroe; Cecelia Connell Smith of Hampton, New Hampshire and Cronan F. Connell ( Theresa Shea Connell) of Monroe; grandchildren: Adam (Elise) Smith, Jason Forsch, Alex (Kayce) Smith, Lauren Forsch, Patrick (Katie) Connell, Elizabeth Connell (Ricardo Suarez), Luke Palmer, Joseph Palmer and Hannah Palmer; and great-grandchildren: Kennedy Redmond, Finley Smith, Elliott Smith, Gracen Smith, Dennen Smith, Conley Smith, Delaney Connell and Maverick Connell; his cousins and friends.
The celebration of life for Deacon Connell will be on Dec. 17. Friends can visit with the family at St. Anna Church on Thursday, Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to noon. A private Mass and burial will follow for the family.
Memorial donations can be made to: St. Anna Church—1401 Alcovy St., Monroe, GA 30655 or Faith In Serving Humanity/FISH—P.O. Box 1838, Monroe, GA 30655.