Jun 25, 2016 4:37 PM

Community says farewell to Concord High principal at retirement 'roast'

CONCORD - A retirement celebration for Concord High School Principal Gene Connolly brought out hundreds of his colleagues, family, and friends who took the stage Saturday.

Memories from years ago resurfaced as people reflected on the man who had touched their lives, prompting stories from his 38 years of public school service, 14 at Concord High, before ALS ended his career.

"He goes down, bangs his head on the pavement, I go in catch a pass and I hear this awful pain shooting up my right leg. Four, four dislocated toes!" Connolly's brother-in-law said while "roasting" him on stage at the Grappone Conference Center.

Despite his physical limitations, Connolly expressed his gratitude through smiles and laughter. Connolly was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2014, first losing his voice, then his mobility. That didn't stop him from his commitment to completing his last year as principal.

"There is just an incredible human being that in the midst of all the fun-loving stories, there's a man that people just wish to emulate the goodness that exists in him," said Tom Sica, the former Rundlett Middle School principal who has been tapped to serve as the next principal at Concord High.

"He's a great person with a huge heart, caring heart, cares for everybody. Always willing to go out there and you know he'd take the shirt off his back for somebody," Karen Arnold said. Arnold worked with Connolly at Concord High during his 14 years as a teacher and principal.

"Gene has this wonderful balance of, you know, this is serious and important work that we all do, and yet there is that sense of in order to sustain that commitment you need to be able to enjoy life that's in front of you," Sica said.

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