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Brian Connolly, former 3-sport athlete at Commack High, dies

His 1965 Commack High School football team won the Rutgers Trophy as the best team in Suffolk.

Brian Connolly played halfback at Commack High School.

Brian Connolly played halfback at Commack High School. Photo Credit: Robert Connolly

Brian Connolly, a former three-sport star at Commack High School whose love of athletics connected him to his extended family throughout his life, has died. He was 69.

Connolly was a halfback on the 1965 Commack High School football team that was awarded the Rutgers Trophy as the best team in Suffolk. Two months after taking up pole vaulting, he won first place in the event at the Suffolk County Track and Field Championship. He was also a star high bar gymnast on the Commack team that won 66 meets in a row, his family said.

He died Nov. 6 of a heart attack at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Smithtown.

Connolly attended Rutgers University on a full athletic scholarship, where his football career ended after his freshman year. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and became a security consultant. He lived in Commack.

One of seven siblings, Connolly as an adult mentored his nieces and nephews, particularly bonding with them through sports, his brother Robert Connolly of Palm Beach, Florida, said.

Robert Connolly remembers overhearing a conversation his daughter, Kathlyn, had with his brother when she was about 12.

She asked Connolly who the best athlete in the family was, him or her dad.

“And Brian said, ‘You are, Kathlyn.’ I thought it was very generous of him,” Robert Connolly said.

During a snowstorm when Brian Connolly was in sixth or seventh grade, his father walked with his children to the A&P to get groceries. On the way home, the bags started falling apart, leaving groceries strewed along Town Line Road.

When they got home, Brian grabbed a blanket so he could drag the food home.

“He was just that kind of guy. He was so strong and always fearless,” said his sister Barbara Connolly Fischer of San Clemente, California. “He was so kind and good to everybody.”

His nickname in high school was The Beast, because no one could stop him on the football field, she said.

When Robert Connolly was still in high school, his older brother came home from college and asked how he thought they’d fare in an upcoming football game against a top-ranked opponent. Robert said he wasn’t sure, and Brian encouraged him.

“Never play a football game unless you go into it knowing you’re going to win,” Brian told him, Robert said. It was a lesson Robert would take with him.

“That was one, small short thing he said to me that had a profound impact at the time. You don’t succeed in life unless you believe you can accomplish something,” he said.

Brian Connolly was the oldest son of Peter Patrick Connolly, a World War II paratrooper who became a lawyer, and Audrie Connolly.

In addition to his brother Robert and sister Barbara, he also is survived by sisters Patricia Baxter of Santa Rosa, California; Theresa Wetnight of Georgia; and brothers Peter, of Princeton, New Jersey; and Gregory, of Commack.

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