Those We Lost
Recent Irish and Irish-American passings
Harold Connolly, who won the gold medal in the hammer throw at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, died in Maryland on August 19. He was 79. His son Adam Connolly reported that he died of a heart attack.
After suffering from severe nerve paralysis as a child, Connolly underwent serious physical therapy and began a training regimen of strength conditioning, weight lifting and athletic activity at Brighton High School in Massachusetts, and Boston College.
A four-time Olympian, he set American, world and Olympic records in the hammer throw. After winning his gold medal in Melbourne, Connolly began a romantic relationship with Czechoslovakian gold medalist in discus throwing, Olga Fikotová. They married in a public ceremony in Prague, but divorced in 1974.
After an illustrious career as a competitive athlete, Connolly coached throwing at Georgetown and Boston universities. He was the executive director of U.S. programs for the Special Olympics from 1988-1999.
A statue of Connolly by sculptor Pablo Eduardo has stood in Brighton since 2005. Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Pat Winslow Connolly, and six children from his two marriages. – KR
Denis E. Dillon
Denis E. Dillon, the long-standing District Attorney of Nassau County, died early on the morning of August 15 at his home in Rockville Center after a long battle with lymphoma.
Dillon was first elected as Nassau County District Attorney in 1974 as a Democrat, but then switched to the Republican party in 1989 in support of its anti-abortion stance. He continued to serve as the D.A. until 2005, overseeing many notable cases. He was considered unique among his peers for holding firmly to his personal beliefs, sometimes even at the cost of his political aspirations.
Born in 1933 in the Bronx, Dillon also lived in Woodlawn, N.Y., Arlington, Va and Rockaway Beach, N.Y. He attended Fordham Law School and worked as a police officer in New York City while studying for his degree. Dillon was a devoted Roman Catholic and is remembered by family and friends as loving Irish music, culture, and limericks. He is survived by his wife Anne and their two daughters, Barbara and Anne Marie. – SL
Dorothy Hayden Cudahy
Dorothy Hayden Cudahy, a pioneering figure in New York’s Irish-American community, passed away on August 5. She was 88.
In 1989 Hayden Cudahy was the first female Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. She was also the first woman and the first American-born person to be elected president of the County Kilkenny Association. In addition, she was a member of the A.O.H and a trustee of the Irish Institute.
Hayden Cudahy was born in Manhattan on May 29, 1922. Her mother was Delia Brennan of Co. Sligo and her father was James Hayden, from Co. Kilkenny. Hayden was the host of the popular “Irish Memories” radio program, and Hayden Cudahy took his place after his death in 1943. She hosted the show until 1990, which earned her the unofficial title “The First Lady of Irish Radio.” A collection of her papers relating to the show is held by the Archives of Irish America.
She was married to John Cudahy, with whom she had a son, Sean. She is survived by her granddaughter and many nieces and nephews. – SL
Rising from a working-class lifestyle in Belfast, Alex Higgins abandoned ambitions for jockey gold to pursue a sport little known on this side of the pond – snooker. The billiard game with 6 pockets and 22 balls originated among British soldiers in India in the 19th century. Its rules are complicated and its fan base fierce. Higgins joined the professional snooker world to earn two world-championship titles and the nickname ‘Hurricane’ thanks to his aggressive style.
Alexander Higgins, called Sandy as a boy, was born in Belfast on March 18, 1949. He began playing snooker at a local pub, the Jampot, when he was 11. Higgins won his first championship at age 22, his first attempt at the title, and quickly rose to an iconic status in the snooker circuit not only for his talent but also for his charismatic and somewhat crass behavior. Known for his drinking and physical altercations with tournament directors and opponents, Higgins was a dark but lively figure in the sport.
His home life was tabloid heaven with stories of furious and violent girlfriends and two wives. He was the subject of a 2001 biography, Eye of the Hurricane, and of a 2004 one-man play, Hurricane, as well as the 1991 documentary I’m No Angel.
Higgins was found dead in his home in Belfast on July 24. He was 61 and had been battling throat cancer for 12 years. Higgins is survived by his daughter and son. – TD
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