William H. Connolly Jr., a lifelong resident of Montclair and the president and CEO of the insurance and risk management brokerage firm William H. Connolly & Co., died at his home on Feb. 26, 2021, after a valiant battle against cancer. He was 74.
Mr. Connolly was a graduate of St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City and of Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. He served in the Army National Guard from 1967 to 1973. In 1969, after finishing college, he joined William H. Connolly & Co., the firm that his father founded in 1950.
He became its president and CEO in 1983, and continued in that role until his death. He led a dedicated team of professionals providing property and casualty insurance products and risk management services to families and to a wide variety of organizations. He served on the Governor’s Panel on Malpractice Insurance for the commissioner of banking and insurance in 2013.
Mr. Connolly’s first priority and foremost love and joy was always his family. He took great pride in their every accomplishment. But his other family — his co-workers and colleagues — came in a very close second. He felt blessed to collaborate and grow with them for so many years.
He also cherished his rugby family. His 20-year career began when he joined the Fairfield University Rugby Football Club as a freshman, in 1966. In 1970 he co-founded the Essex Rugby Football Club and was a fixture on the field until his retirement in 1977. He continued on as a coach, including, in 1980, as an assistant coach for the United States Eagles national team.
Through his company and personally, Mr. Connolly was engaged with many community organizations. He was chairman of the United Healthcare Foundation and served on the development committee of Caldwell University. Since 1987 he was a trustee of St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Newark, recently stepping down as its board chairman. He also was a trustee of Fairfield University and of the Montclair Golf Club.
A member of St. Cassian Roman Catholic Church, Mr. Connolly will be remembered for his warmth and good humor, patience, dedication, honesty and tenacity. His rule was “Be good, work hard, have fun,” and he inspired others to do just that.
He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Melinda (Sharkey) Connolly; their three children, Kristen Connolly (Stephen Reilly), James Connolly (Elyse Moody) and Will Connolly; two grandchildren, Aidan and Anna O’Reilly; his sisters, Noreen and Mary Connolly, and many nephews and nieces.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William H. Connolly Sr. and Dolores (Rachel) Connolly; his brother, James F. Connolly; and his infant son, William Robert Connolly.
Visitation will be Monday, March 1, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Hugh M. Moriarty Funeral Home, 76 Park St. (moriartyfuneralhome.com). A Mass of Christian Burial will be said Tuesday, March 2, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Cassian Roman Catholic Church, 187 Bellevue Ave. Because seating is limited due to COVID, it will also be available to be watched via livestream at stcassianchurchuppermontclair.org. A notice of a future memorial celebration of his life will be announced.
The Connolly family would like to thank all of his friends and associates who thought and prayed, called, sent cards, videos and messages of support, and made him and all family members smile during these difficult months. They would also like to thank the compassionate caregivers at Hackensack University Medical Center’s John Theurer Cancer Center who cared for him so well.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, 520 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark, NJ 07102, or to Friends of Fairfield Rugby, 536 Surrey Lane, Fairfield, CT 06824 or friendsoffairfieldrugby.org.