by Dave Warner
Father J. Thomas Connery, was apparently swept away on Military Road in the town of Norway last evening. Connery was born in 1937 and was originally from Troy, NY. He was first assigned to St Mary’s in Little Falls in 1963 as Assistant Pastor, returning as Pastor in 1981.
At approximately 10:10 p.m., State Police in Herkimer responded to a report of a man being swept away in a torrent of floodwaters from Factory Brook along Military Road in the town of Norway, Herkimer County.
“Factory Brook had overflowed its banks and was running over the roadway at a high level when a witness observed a 2017 Ford Fusion drive through the floodwaters and barely make it through. Due to the ditches of the roadway being undermined the road surface at the shoulder collapsed and the vehicle became stuck with its driver’s side wheels on the pavement and the passenger side in a ravine created by the floodwaters,” stated officials.
“The operator, identified as John T. Connery, age 82 from Glenville, NY exited and began to walk towards the witness and back through the floodwaters he had just driven through. Due to the current, the man lost his footing and was washed downstream. Due to the dangerously high and strong current, the witness was unable to help Mr. Connery.”
“At daybreak, a search began by members of the New York State Police Underwater Recovery Team (URT) after the floodwaters had receded. Mr. Connery was discovered deceased approximately a quarter-mile downstream,” stated the release.
According to Deacon Jim Bower at Holy Family Parish, “I got the call at about 11 o’clock from Brian Roberts, who is a funeral director in Little Falls and the coroner. He identified pretty much who it was that they’d found in the creek.”
“Father Connery is a retired priest who served in Little Falls for quite a while. He’s been acting as the sacramental minister at the Catholic Church in Newport and one in Herkimer. He was supposed to do a nine o’clock mass this morning for All Saints Day. As well as we can put it together, he was driving down from his home in Glenville and my guess is that he discovered that Rt 28 was closed and tried to find a way around it and ended up in Norway.”
From what Bower’s was told, it looked like his car had skidded off the road, but didn’t go into the water. “As he started walking in the direction that would put him on dry land, he walked into the creek purely by accident and the water was flowing so fast that it carried him somewheres downstream where they found him eventually.”
Police traced the body through the car because they could not find any identification on Father Connery.
“I think he was just trying to find a way around so that he could be on time to do the Mass,” Bower said.
“He was very, very well-known. People of faith take solace in the fact that this is All Saints Day and so he’s saying his Mass up in Heaven.”
Police have said this is the only fatality reported since flooding from heavy rains damaged areas in more than 11 counties across the region.