Gary N. Connellis, 81, lived a full life on his terms and departed from this life on his terms. He was a proud Brooklyn boy born on February 25, 1941, to Harry and Caroline Connellis. He dedicated his life to protect, serve, and connect with every type of person from all walks of life. A U.S. Army veteran, he protected our country by repairing and maintaining military helicopters. Upon leaving the military, his goal was to become a fire fighter. Instead, his path led to proudly protecting and serving as a New York City police officer. His integrity and ability to connect with those he was protecting, while building trust, with those he was arresting made way for advancement to becoming a respected detective. A job-related injury retired his 20+ years of fighting crime. Greyhound racing, what began as a hobby, transformed into a business venture. Gary left the big apple in 1988 and found Clay Center- the land of Oz- as his new home. GNC Spartan Kennel was where his dream of raising, breeding, training, and racing this royal dog breed was realized. With blue blood running deep in his veins, Gary was led back to public service as a part time Clay County Court Service Officer.
Gary’s gifts were many. He championed the underdog, provided second chances to those who just needed a hand up, and advocated for systemic change for Clay County’s vulnerable. As the greyhound business was being overshadowed by slot machines and casinos, Gary retired his 20+ year dream and hung up his leash from the greyhound business. After years of connecting, listening, and encouraging his clients, he stepped aside from his court service officer role. His focus then shifted to managing his own medical diagnoses such as diabetes, A-Fib, weak heart muscles, and recovering from a heart attack all while keeping connected to his community through volunteer service. This humble, yet determined, Greek/Italian man did not allow anything to dim the mischievous twinkle in his eyes. He passed on this twinkle to one adult daughter and 3 adult sons from his first marriage. Filling the role of stepdad to his second wife’s 2 adult daughters, he was pleasantly surprised by the twinkle in the eyes of his youngest adult stepdaughter who proposed an adult adoption. Proudly displayed on his home office wall is the 2015 legally recognized adult adoption certificate of his then 38-year-old daughter.
In 2021, Gary was tasked with the hardest case of his life. The perpetrator was identified as chronic kidney failure with an accomplice named diabetes. Hitting the highway 3-days a week to Marysville for dialysis treatments was his new routine. The last year was a battle hard fought with his troops by his side including the Clay Center Public Transportation program, his family, and many friendships he cultivated in Kansas. He made it clear that his wish was to die in the home he worked hard to create, sleeping, and surrounded by his wife, his son Peter, and daughters Caroline and Julia. On October 6, 2022, his wish was granted as he heard Caroline’s voice that morning, heard Peter’s voice that afternoon, and had the love of his wife and Julia surrounding him as he napped in his recliner where he took his last breath. He lived a full life on his terms and left this life on his terms!
Gary was preceded in death by his younger brother, Peter H. Connellis; father, Harry Connellis; and mother, Caroline Connellis. Gary’s legacy will continue through his surviving spouse, Miriam (Mimi) Fonseca of Clay Center, KS, and four biological adult children: daughter Caroline M. (Connellis) Morris and son-in-law Jim, Milford, PA (3 granddaughters and one grandson); son Gary V. Connellis, Nyack, NY (1 granddaughter); son Peter Connellis, Milford, PA (1 granddaughter); son Matthew J. Connellis, Milford, PA (2 grandsons and 1 granddaughter); step daughter Michelle (Vargas) Rivera and son-in-law Alex, Bangor, PA (2 granddaughters and 1 grandson); and adopted daughter Julia C.F. Connellis (1 fur granddaughter-dog and 1 fur granddaughter-cat), Topeka.
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, October 29, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church located on 6th and Clark in Clay Center. Services begin at 11:00 am with an opportunity to share your fond memories with lunch served in the parish hall. Services will be streamed on Facebook LIVE and Zoom. For a link to attend virtually, send a request to Julia C. Connellis on Facebook Messenger or email@example.com.
In lieu of flowers, we lovingly encourage you to donate to the Clay Center General Public Transportation Program in care of Neill-Schwensen-Rook Funeral Home. Without this vital service, Gary’s final year of life would not have been possible.