On 31 August, 2023 SKCM (SS) RET. Thomas Connors of Gales Ferry, deployed on his final patrol, family by his side. He is survived by his wife, Carol, his son Michael (Linda), daughter Kathy Cochran (Kevin), son James (Kate) and daughter Carol Reinhart (Rick Davis). He is also survived by 11 grandchildren: Heather, Ben, Michelle, Shannon, Melissa, Joshua, Bryan, Natasha, Lindsey, Riley and Ricky; 27 great-grandchildren, one 2x great-granddaughter and another 2x great-grandchild on the way. In addition, he is survived by his sister’s daughters Deborah, Eileen & Lisa and many nieces and nephews on his wife’s side. Tom was predeceased by his wife Jean (Shirley) Blackwell Connors, his parents, his sister, an infant niece, several brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, cousins and an infant grandson, whom he always remembered to count among his grandchildren. He will also be missed by his granddogs and all the neighborhood dogs for whom he would fill his pockets with treats.
He was born in Troy, NY to Thomas (Duffy) and Anna Mae Murphy Connors and was little brother to Jean (Fox). He graduated from Catholic Central High School in 1953 and pursued his dream of enlisting in the Navy. Master Chief Connors served his country for 36 years and three days (and he didn’t let you forget those three days), which included 19 years as a Master Chief. He started his career on the USS ORION as a storekeeper, followed by Flag Unit, CDR Service Force Atlantic, then back to the USS ORION. He was a Plank-owner on the USS SEADRAGON (SSN 584) serving as Lead Storekeeper. Admiral Rickover was onboard during sea trials prior to their historic mission where they were the first vessel to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage, diving under the ice. They left Portsmouth, NH, making a pit stop at the North Pole to visit Santa and play a game of softball, and then arrived in sunny Honolulu at the end of their mission. His next two duty stations were at the Supply Dept. Pearl Harbor and Naval Ships Tech. Reps. Office at GE in Schenectady, NY. He was a proud Vietnam Veteran, having served the Navy Advisory Group in Saigon as Leading Chief. He served at the Navy Commissary Store in Scotia, NY and then on the USS WOODROW WILSON as Senior Storekeeper and LPO. He followed with COMSUBPAC (Sea Duty Com) as Senior Enlisted Member of Supply Inspection Team, then transferred to Virginia to Chief of Naval Personnel PERS 5 as a Senior Storekeeper Detailer. Master Chief Connors’ first tour as Chief of the Boat (COB) and Command Master Chief was on the USS LAFAYETTE (SSBN 616). He was selected as Force Master Chief, Naval Supply Systems Command where he proudly served as the number one Storekeeper in the Navy. He had many adventures in this role, including the opportunity to stand in North Korea when the U.S. had the guard. He was a sailor, though, and decided he would rather go back to sea than to retire. He returned to Connecticut as the COB of the USS KAMEHAMEHA (SSBN 642) and then served two consecutive tours as COB on the USS ULYSSES S. GRANT (SSBN 631) for a total of four tours as Chief of the Boat. He retired in 1990. He was awarded the following: NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE MEDAL W/1 BRONZE STAR, NAVY EXPEDITIONARY MEDAL, VIETNAM CAMPAIGN MEDAL W/SILVER DATE BAR, NAVY UNIT COMMENDATION (3), MERITORIOUS UNIT COMMENDATION (2), NAVY E RIBBON (2), NAVY ACHIEVEMENT MEDAL, VIETNAM SERVICE MEDAL W/2 BRONZE STARS, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM MERITORIOUS UNIT CITATION (GALLENTRY CROSS COLOR W/PALM), REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM MERITORIOUS UNIT CITATION (CIVIL ACTIONS COLOR), SEA SERVICE DEPLOYMENT RIBBON 1 SILVER STAR, NAVY COMMENDATION MEDAL W/3 GOLD STARS, ENLISTED SUBMARINE BREAST INSIGNIA, STRATEGIC DETERRENT PATROL INSIGNIA W/3 SILVER STARS, EXPERT PISTOL MEDAL, NINTH GOOD CONDUCT AWARD.
Tom worked at Feldman Bros. in Waterford as Parts Manager after retiring from the Navy in part to keep busy and in part because he was driving his wife crazy following her around. After leaving Feldman Bros., he served as Bar Manager for a time at his beloved SUBVETS Club in Groton. He worked for many years as a volunteer there in different capacities and enjoyed raising money for the Building Fund and Scholarship Fund. He and his wife hosted the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner at SUBVETS for many years. SUBVETS has named their dining hall after him.
In addition to SUBVETS, Tom volunteered at his Church, Our Lady of Lourdes, at the annual fair and on committees. He enjoyed traveling with his wife, attending shows and concerts at The Kate in Old Saybrook, going to the movies, eating at many favorite local restaurants, dancing to anything, but especially ABBA and the song Shout, where he could be expected to truly get down - on his back and kick up his arms and legs. He was often found watching TV, snacking and napping, all life-long favorites. He very much loved spending time with family, especially if there was a ‘free dinner’. His sense of humor was well known and loved, at least by most. He loved his life and truly did not want to leave.
His family would like to express their appreciation to all those who cared for him. There were many in his final years, including his many doctors and their staff, the Visiting Nurses, wound care specialists and physical therapists, those who cared for him at New London Re-hab & Care in his last month, especially Wisdom and the many wonderful nurses and nurses aides; the staff at Pequot, the L&M staff of the ED, the ICU (Michael & Anxela) and his nurses on Floor Six who cared for him, and his family, in his final hours – Freida and Heather, and lastly Lauren. All three young women showed exceptional professionalism, grace and wisdom beyond their years. We do not leave anyone out purposely, it was a heartbreaking time, so please forgive us. You are all in our hearts forever.
In tribute to Tom, his family asks those attending his funeral to wear a Hawaiian shirt. He spent many years in Hawaii and would wear his Hawaiian shirt when running his fitness tests his last few years in the Navy. His funeral mass is scheduled for 16 September 2023, at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Gales Ferry, CT, Dinoto Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Visitation starts at 0900, SUBVETS Honor Guard at 0945 and Funeral Mass at 1000. Reception to follow in the church hall. If you would like to make a contribution in his honor, please consider SUBVETS Groton Base for their Building Fund and Scholarship Fund, US Navy Memorial in Washington D.C., or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. or the traveling memorial.