Mary Michele Connor, the mother of two sons who also took a motherly approach to her assistant athletic director position at Mount Saint Joseph, died Tuesday from lung cancer at her Edmondson Heights home. She was 65.
Raised in Edmondson Heights and a graduate of what is now Archbishop Spalding High School and Catonsville Community College, Mrs. Connor found her dream job in 2006 when she was hired at Mount Saint Joe.
Her late father, Joseph, was a Mount Saint Joe grad, her brother Joe, Jr., is in the athletic hall of fame there and both her sons, Nolan and Nicholas, played sports at the Irvington private school.
Her love for family came first, said her sister, Crissy Skoglin, and Mount Saint Joe was not far behind.
“Her entire wardrobe is purple — everything Mount Saint Joe,” Skoglin said.
“Having two boys of her own and them growing up playing athletics there, it just seemed like a great place for her. And she couldn’t say ‘no’ to anybody.”
Mrs. Connor was at nearly every home game for every sport, making sure each last detail was attended to before and after the events. She did it all with a comforting smile that made visitors feel at home.
“She always made it sound like she had to be there,” Skoglin said. “I knew she didn’t always have to be there. She just wanted to be there. She wanted to support Mount Saint Joe.”
The consensus from the school’s heartbroken athletic staff is that Mrs. Connor is irreplaceable. She first became ill at the end of the basketball season, just prior to the pandemic, and swore many to secrecy about her sudden bout with cancer. Athletic Director Kraig Loovis worked by her side the past 10 years, and it was long ago that their working relationship had become more like family.
“She was so dedicated to the school, to the boys. That was always her top priority, just making sure all the boys at Mount Saint Joe were taken care of in the athletic department,” he said. “Those that knew her know she always gave everything she had to you. She was very supportive and very caring. That’s the kind of person she was and she’ll be greatly missed by many people.”
During a football game last fall, the school found a special way to celebrate her birthday.
“We kind of pulled her out there in front of the crowd. She was reluctant of course, not wanting any spotlight on her, and then the student section sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. They did so enthusiastically with help from the band,” Loovis said. “That was a fun moment. We had a lot of fun moments like that over the years.”
Mrs. Connor’s office was a source of pride, filled with signed jerseys from past student athletes who went on to excel in college and beyond in their respective sports.
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“Just her work ethic, her commitment and dedication were like an example for people in our athletic department,” said basketball coach Pat Clatchey. “Everything she did was top notch and she did a lot of little things, details, and things behind the scene that went unnoticed. She just really cared a lot.”
In an e-mail sent to the Mount Saint Joe family on Wednesday morning, school president George Andrews wrote: “She was very dedicated to our students and always went the extra mile to take care of the boys. She served at The Mount for last 14 years gaining the respect of our community for her work ethic and her pride in doing the job, no matter how menial, to the best of her ability.”
In addition to her love for family, Mount Saint Joe and sports — basketball and baseball were her favorites — Mrs. Connor enjoyed painting, cross stitching and going to the gun range with her nephew. She liked to relax with a glass of wine.
In addition to her two sons, brother and sister, Mrs. Connor is survived by her husband, Richard; mother, Marilyn Mengele; daughter in-laws, Christina and Lindsey; four grandchildren, nieces and nephews.