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Oh yeah, Sgt. Connolly would’ve loved this baby, too

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012 | Posted by


BY CHRIS SMITH/The Press Democrat

Ryan Connolly lived a passionate, pedal-to-the-metal life, but it didn’t last anywhere near long enough for the 2002 Piner High alum to do all he aimed to do.

Ryan Connolly and Kayla in 2007.

At just 24, the decorated Army sergeant had spent less than a month with his baby daughter, he was pining for his wife and he was aching to get his hands dirty restoring an old Chevy when he was killed in Afghanistan in 2008.

Following his death, the Army named a base in Afghanistan after him — Forward Operating Base Connolly.

The other day a group of local car lovers grateful to him sold at auction the sweet, tangelo-colored early-’70s Nova hot rod they’d fastidously built over several years.

Peggy Sue and Rich Williams of Santa Rosa’s huge Peggy Sue’s All-American Cruise car show presented $40,000 — the net proceeds of the sale of the Nova — to Connolly’s widow, Stefanie, and 5-year-old daughter, Kayla.

The money will go toward Kayla’s education and participation in programs for children of fallen soldiers.

The Nova.

Tom Kemper, a military veteran and car buff in Windsor, initiated the Nova project and many local firms pitched in. Mike DiMatteo of DiMatteo’s Street Rods alone put in more than 2,000 volunteer hours on the project.

Connolly’s dad, Jim, treasures the years of memories of the two of them putting wrenches to anything with tires and a motor. He finds it hard to describe how much care and community he saw go into that Nova and how much his boy would have loved to take it out for a spin.

  • Tim T.

    Peggy and Rich have brought miles of smiles to Santa Rosa for years.This gesture solidifies just how much we appreciate all their efforts.

  • Marshall Blackmon

    I miss you daily Ryan and not a sec goes by that I don’t think about you or the 24th of June. I live for you and those who know me know you I’ll see you on the other side

    Love Always your brother “Black”

  • StaffSergeant Liby, Chris

    There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of that day I pulled you and Blackmon from that Humvee! I don’t remember exactly how it went because of my own injuries but I do know I had to get you out! I didn’t know you long, just 3 weeks or so but I got to know more about you in those moments before we got you on the bird. You talked about your wife and new baby girl, the baby girl you had such a very short time with! You are a True Soldier helping me and the other Soldiers work on you. I mean who tells me to tighten the tourniquet on your leg knowing the pain will be excruciating! When I asked you what we should do about Blackmon’s ankles you had no issue telling me what to do and even tried to assist. I only wish I would have checked you for that internal bleeding. All I can say is sorry! Who would have known with how coherent you were that you would have left this world! I think about the pain your family went through and I Blame myself for not doing more. I don’t know what else I could have done but I know there was something. It’s been 4 years now and this event sticks in my mind more than any other. It’s because on that day you just found out you made Sergeant, you were just recently married, and your new daughter. As much as I have worked on my survivors guilt I can’t help but feel that guilt! I keep telling myself your in a better place but it doesn’t really help. I have a hard time when I hear the song I’m already home by Tim McGraw! A really hard time! I plan on reaching out to your wife and parents sometime when I’m more financially stable. It doesn’t help when your pay is cut in half when your forced to medically retire due to these injuries! I just know it will help knowing how they are doing! I miss you Soldier and will never forget you. This saying “The only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” says it all and means a lot to me. It’s just so true! Thank you for your sacrifice and will see you when the time comes. Thank you to all of you who contributed to the Nova project and for all you have done for the Connolly family. You are greatly appreciated and are True Americans,
    StaffSergeant Liby

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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