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