Colonel Edward J. Connelly
Col. Edward J. Connelly was born in 1876 in Chelsea, Massachusetts but moved to Wakefield, Massachusetts with his family at age four. He died in Wakefield on December 28, 1960. In between, this highly decorated soldier was an active participant in three major wars. He also served the town of Wakefield, Massachusetts as a state representative, a member of the Finance Committee, Director of the Wakefield Chamber of Commerce, an incorporator of the Wakefield Savings Bank and a director of the Wakefield Co-Operative Bank.
In business life, Col. Connelly was a clothier, operating the well-known “People’s Clothing Store” in Wakefield for years.
During the Spanish-American War, Col. Connelly was in action at Guanica, Puerto Rico. He continued his service after the war with the local Richardson Light Guard (later known as the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia and the Massachusetts National Guard).
Rising rapidly in the ranks, Edward Connelly became a captain in 1914, and was again sworn into active duty on April 6, 1917 to serve his country in time of war. He was sent to France the following October, where he saw action on numerous battlefields. He was severely wounded at Ville Devant Chaumont.
Col. Connelly was twice recommended for distinguished Service Crosses for gallantry in action, was awarded France’s Croix de Guerre, and received a U.S. Army Citation signed by Gen. John J. Pershing, among numerous other military honors for his service in World War I.
Shortly after the start of the Second World War, Col. Connelly again answered duty’s call and was activated with the State Guard, which he served with distinction for the next five years. According to a Wakefield Daily Item editorial following Col. Connelly’s death, “He was truly a leader on the home front during the World War II period.”
Col. Connelly was also a leader in veterans’ affairs, locally and at the state level. The same Wakefield Daily Item editorial praised “his untiring efforts in behalf of veterans.”
The Daily Item editorial suggested that Col. Connelly’s accomplishments were so numerous that “only the highlights of his better known activities were mentioned in his obituary.” When Col. Connelly was awarded the Croix de Guerre in ceremonies at Camp Devens in 1927, the Item devoted two full pages to details of his military service.
In the early 1950s, the town of Wakefield honored Col. Connelly by naming the park at the head of Lake Quannapowitt "Colonel Connelly Park." Families spent summer days picknicking at the park and swimming in Lake Quannapowitt. By the late 20th century, the park had fallen into disprepair. In 2004, the town joined with the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt to begin a process that would result in the renovation and upgrade of Colonel Connelly Park using state grants and private funds. On September 21, 2008, a ceremony was held to rededicate the new Colonel Edward J. Connelly Park in Wakefield, Massachusetts. The ceremony was attended by Col. Connelly's descendants.