GLENVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Flash flooding in Herkimer County claimed the life of a local pastor, who is remembered as a gentleman, a mentor, and a magnificent priest.
Father J. Thomas Connery was on his way to serve Mass, when his car was struggling to make it through the waters during the flooding in the town of Norway. He tried to walk toward a witness, when he lost his footing and was washed downstream.
Those who knew him, say where he was going that day is a testament to his character.
“He really did die as he lived, which was serving the people he loved,” said Mary DeTurris Poust, Communications Director for the Diocese of Albany, “and he loved the people of the Diocese of Albany.”
Poust met Father Connery when they happened to be seated next to each other at a breakfast. He told her about his travels to Alaska, where he ministered for several years.
“He had a fascinating life in terms of people he met,” Poust told News10, “who were giant figures in the Church.”
Father Connery loved the Adironacks, where he had a home. He was a priest for 56 years, serving mainly at Immaculate Conception in Glenville. The 82-year-old was still going out and saying Mass wherever he was needed, up until his final day.
“He really was a kind, and gentle, and really sweet spirit,” Poust told News10, “as well as a magnificent priest.”
Father James Ebert from Mater Christi Parish knew him well.
“It’s been almost 30 years of knowing him and being his alter server, then going into being a priest,” Father Ebert told News10, “and now as vicar for clergy, asking him to go to parishes throughout the diocese to fill in and to help out.”
Father Connery laid a hand on Father Ebert’s head when he was ordained at Immaculate Conception. But even before that, when he was in high school, Father Connery was there for him.
“I would call him if I was doing a topic like the Crusades. I’d call him up and say, ‘Father Connery, can you help me with this paper?’,” Father Ebert told News10, “and he would take the time. He always had time.”
When he learned about Father Connery’s passing, he couldn’t wrap his mind around what happened.
“I just started crying. It was a shock. He had just sent me a letter about a month ago, thanking me for everything that I do,” Father Ebert told News10, “that’s the kind of guy he was. Just really thoughtful.”
Poust described the shock on the Diocese staff’s faces when they heard the tragic way Father Connery died, but she takes a bit of solace in knowing he was on his way to do holy work.
“I’m sure he was thinking he needed to get where he needed to be to serve the people,” Poust told News10.