Connor Cage’s mother, Dorothy Connor, addresses seniors from Herkimer and Little Falls High Schools.

by Dave Warner

Connor Gage was the focus of attention once again in a joint assembly with Herkimer and Little Falls High School students in attendance. His mother and family members were also there to speak about ‘Never Walking Alone.”

According to Assistant Superintendent Bart Tooley “One of the very first things we talked about was that it was really important that we bring the two school communities together.”

He spoke to the students and said, “I think most of you knew Connor from either his time in Herkimer or maybe his brothers that were there and certainly we all knew Connor here.”

Dave Casullo with Daneli Partners addressed the group next stating “This is an important day. I wish when I was growing up, that I had had the opportunity to hear what you are going to hear today. Not because of the tragedy, but because the message is really important. It’s a life message. Sometimes when we’re living life it’s difficult to take a step back and think a little bit differently about why we do what we do.”

Casullo said he didn’t know Connor, but wished that he had. “I know his mom and I’m sure a lot of the values that I’ve witnessed that she has are part of who he was. Today is important for carrying forward a message that Connor would want you all to have.”

Dorothy Connor spoke next, with an image of her son projected behind her and she pointed and said, “This is my son. A lot of you knew him and some of you didn’t.”

She started off by telling the group a little bit about her son. Some of which they knew, and some that they didn’t.

She talked a bit about his love of sports and his years playing football and wrestling, and detailed his time at the University of Vermont, his GPA and major at the school, and his dream of wanting to attend West Point Military Academy.

“Connor was part of a blended family, the youngest of five children,” she said. “They were very close.”

She went on to talk about getting the phone call that would change her life on February 2nd of this year. “It was around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I got a call from the call center that the State Troopers were trying to get hold of me. That they needed to talk to me.”

“Immediately your mind starts racing to ask why would the State Troopers be calling me, what happened, what did I do? Those things start running through your mind, but then I thought that we had elderly parents and maybe something happened to them, so I texted my sisters that I was really scared. Neither one of them knew anything and they were scared at that point as well,” she said.

Dorothy called the Troopers back, but there was nobody to talk to her. They said they were sending someone down to where she worked. So, in the meantime, she started calling all of her children and nobody answered, but their phones went to voicemail “until I got to Connor’s. I called Connor’s phone and it was dead. I knew something had happened.”

Her first thought was that he had gotten hurt snowboarding. But, the Troopers arrived and told her there had been a terrible accident. Connor had been out drinking and hadn’t made it home. “He was found in a parking lot, laying in the snow, alone.”

As a mom, she said her first thought was “Why was he alone? Where were his friends? Where was this brotherhood of a fraternity that he was involved with?”

She didn’t place blame on anyone because she said Connor was his own person and could make his own decisions.

A big thing for her was the fact that he died alone, and that was the main thing she wanted to address with the students and faculty that had assembled to hear her speak. “Nobody should die alone,” she said.

“Why was he alone? That keeps going through my head. Everyone kept asking ‘well, who was he with?’ He wasn’t with anyone, he was by himself. So, I’m here to remind you guys that there are situations that you’re going to be in, even if you’re walking down a street where you might find someone who’s in trouble, or appears to be in trouble,” she said.

“I’m here to tell you that if somebody had stopped and thought about Connor being alone and not letting him walk in negative eight-degree weather and wind chill of -35 to -45, or someone else had been with him, he would probably still be here,” she stated.

She went on to say “Connor would challenge people to become a better version of themselves. He wrote a poem that says ‘I may not be the biggest, I may not be the smartest, I may not be the fastest, but I challenge everyone to give 110%. He challenged you to be a better person, be a better person than who you are.”

She felt that it only took about five seconds of your time to be someone’s friend and wanted students to be a friend to someone that might be in the same position as her son. “I say, a friend is a stranger you haven’t met,” she said. “If you see someone out like that, walk with them.”

She ended with “So I challenge you to be better versions of yourself. To think about Connor so his death won’t be in vain. That his desire to help other people will live on through you.”