J. Gordon Connelly Jr., a retired funeral director who operated an Essex funeral establishment for more than four decades, died Saturday of lung cancer at his home in the eastern Baltimore County community. He was 75.
Mr. Connelly, known as Gordon, operated the Connelly Funeral Home with his brother Charles O. "Bud" Connelly Sr., until retiring in 1986. The business was founded in 1924 by their father, John Gordon Connelly Sr.
Mr. Connelly began his career as a funeral director after graduating from Calvert Hall College in 1939.
"He studied with his father and, after passing the state board examinations, went to work in the business," said a son, Gregory Connelly of Kingsville, who co-manages the funeral establishment with a brother, Robert Terry Connelly of Essex.
"He was a modest and reserved man who liked working with people. He was a sentimentalist and was more concerned about a family's loss and always felt uneasy telling them the cost of a funeral," Gregory Connelly said.
"There isn't one person in this world who would have anything bad to say about him. He was loved by all," said James E. "Bud" Matthews Jr. of Essex, a friend since the two were youngsters growing up in Essex in the 1920s. "He was humble and modest and was the greatest friend you could ever have.
"When there was a fire in the neighborhood or someone suffered a tragedy, he and his brother were the first ones to offer help. They helped each year with food baskets, sold tickets for charitable oyster and bull roasts, and were always doing something for St. Clare Roman Catholic Church."
Because of his good looks, Mr. Connelly earned the nickname "Ugs" in his youth.
"We used to tease him about being so good-looking, so we decided to call him Ugs, and it stuck," Mr. Matthews said.
Mr. Connelly, who had a winter home in Englewood, Fla., liked to sing and was known by proprietors of nightclubs and restaurants for his rendition of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
"When Gordon got up to sing, no matter where it was, the place would just light up," said Johnny Walker, a longtime friend and keyboardist who performs in Baltimore and Ocean City.
Mr. Connelly's professional memberships included the National Funeral Directors Association, and the Maryland State Funeral Directors Association, which honored him several years ago for his dedication to the industry.
He was also a member of the Elks, the Knights of Columbus and the Trevlac Club, and was a charter member of the Hawks Pleasure Club.
A Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Clare Roman Catholic Church, 714 Myrtle Ave. in Essex, where he was a longtime communicant.
He is survived by his wife, the former Geraldine Marie Schutz; another son, John Gordon Connelly III of Millville, Del.; a daughter, Renee Bicknell of Linthicum; a brother Charles O. Connelly Sr. of Dundalk; two sisters, Grace Phillips and Louise Dozier, both of Essex; eight grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.