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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2009

Educator improved science curriculum

Val LaRue Connolly, 83, a past assistant superintendent of Williams County schools and standout track athlete in the 1940s at Montpelier High School and Bowling Green State University, died Saturday at his home in Livonia, Mich.

He suffered from Alzheimer's disease, said his wife, Iris June Connolly, also a Montpelier native.

Mr. Connolly and his future wife, the former Iris June French, both belonged to Montpelier High's class of 1943, and first took interest in one another during their early teenage years.

Yet they were never really high school sweethearts.

"We did not date in high school due to a strict mom that I had, but we became very close friends," explained Mrs. Connolly, whose father, Ralph French, was a former Williams County commissioner.

Years later, after a decade of teaching science at schools in Michigan and Zaragoza, Spain, Mr. Connolly and his wife returned in 1961 to their native Montpelier, where he took a job as assistant superintendent.

Mr. Connolly enjoyed working with children and helped start up more student science fairs, his wife said. The couple moved in 1965 to Livonia, where Mr. Connolly continued his career as a school administrator.

Val Connolly was born the younger of two sons of Eva and Leland Connolly, who earned his living as a farmer. Mr. Connolly would become known among schoolmates for his jocular and lighthearted manner.

"He was a great, great guy - very jovial and sort of a prankster," recalled lifelong friend Bob Storrer of Montpelier, also a member of the class of 1943. "He was a great family man and a great friend."

Mr. Connolly was a three-sport athlete, involved in football, basketball, and track, where he showed his most promise, excelling at sprints and hurdles.

He enlisted in the Navy at age 17 and served during World War II in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. For much of the time, he was a gunner on a merchant ship, his wife said. The couple exchanged nearly 500 letters during the war years.

Mr. Connolly returned home in 1946, and that year married and settled in Bowling Green, where he began studying for a bachelor's degree in science. He graduated from BGSU in 1949 and went on to teach science classes in Coldwater, Mich., and later Zaragoza, Spain, before returning to Montpelier.

"He loved teaching, and he was a great teacher," his wife said. "He loved the kids, and they loved him."

Surviving are his wife, Iris June Connolly; sons, Kris and Kyle; daughter, Corrine Connolly, and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 4 p.m. tomorrow at the Harry J. Will Funeral Home, Livonia. Funeral services will begin at 1 p.m. Thursday in the funeral home, with visitation an hour before the service.



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