Sunday, August 20, 2006

Connelly Reunion: Rain Doesn't Stop Fun

Part of the surviving U.S. contingent of the Connelly family (hailing from Town and County Sligo, Ireland, and northern England), my mother Sheila, Val and I, made our way up to Fort Erie, Ontario, to the Optimists' Club, for the (more or less) annual Connelly family reunion/picnic.
The rain, which started before we left Buffalo, not only continued in Ontario, but got harder and lasted through almost the entire picnic. The worst result of the rain was the cancellation of the water balloon and egg toss contests; this particularly was disappointing, because I was one of the two members of the defending championship water balloon toss team. We somehow found a way to carry on, and we will carry our crown for at least another year.
So, while kids games and contests went on inside, as did some drinking, although much less than a roomful of Irish people (maybe 25-30 out of 50 or so people present were of drinking age) would be expected to do, the games of the day were cribbage, euchre and talking.
You sports fans will enjoy some of this; I wore my blue and gold Buffalo Sabres hat with the official old logo, and one of the first persons to comment on it was Steve, a cousin several generations removed, who I knew had played hockey at some level. He asked Val and I about our opinions on the logo, and said he got to see the new logo on uniforms and other items because someone he used to play junior with now worked high up with CCM. "You guys aren't going to like it," he said while shaking his head.
He then told us, "My one OHA teammate played for the Sabres for a year. You might have heard of him." I asked Steve who. "Wilf Paiement," he replied. Of course I remembered him and told Steve, adding I remember that he had better seasons with Toronto and Colorado than with Buffalo. Steve mentioned that he recently played a charity golf tournament with Paiement and Fred Stanfield, another former Sabre as well as three-time Stanley Cup winner (two with Boston, one with Chicago). He said that when the three of them were at the bar after the tournament, several women came up, particularly paying attention to Stanfield with his three Stanley Cup rings on his fingers. "But they all thought we were former football players, because we've all gotten kind of big," Steve chuckled. "We had to almost convince them that we were hockey players."
There was a football player at the reunion, a college player. Michael Connelly, from Welland, plays defensive line for York University; I hadn't seen him in a few years, and he looked LARGE in an athletic manner Saturday. I checked the York University Lions' web site, and Mike is listed at 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, and yes, he is interested in professional football when his college career ends. He is still a bit quiet and happily shows much more class than too many U.S. college athletes; you can thank his dad, Mike, for continuing the tradition of Connelly discipline.
Otherwise, the food was great, the conversation even better (Val and I had to all but drag my mother out as the picnic ended) and I continued my good fortune by winning the jelly bean count (my guess of 321 was just off 312, which one of the organizers guessed and nicely gave up her prize).
I could go on now about how important and emotional family is and matters, but I think writing about and illustrating it works better.


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