Jeanne Connolly, who died Monday after a 16-month battle with colon cancer, was the ebullient presence behind the bar at T.T. the Bear's Place for more than two decades. Connolly learned of the cancer the night before she turned 50, in the fall of 2007. Later that year, the club's booker, Randi Millman, and co-owner Bonney Bouley put together a benefit for her with Buffalo Tom, Thalia Zedek, Jules Verdone, and others. Connolly said she was slightly embarrassed by the attention. She'd lived her life, she said, "out of the limelight, by choice." She expressed gratefulness and amazement for the outpouring of love.
Really, though, there may not have been a better-loved person on the Boston rock scene. Verdone, a long-time friend, said, "She was genuine, warm, inviting, friendly, no bullshit, smart, witty, and lively. You just felt at home. She was a huge part of the environment there, what these women created running a club. They were always nurturing."
Millman's first experience with Connolly came "as a customer. She had that welcoming way about her, that smile, that wicked little laugh." A friendship and working relationship developed. "She was an angel," says Millman. "She made you want to be around her. She found her niche and blossomed here."
During her illness, Jeanne's brother, David Sheehy, maintained a Web site for his sister's many friends. "The way Jeanne has fought her battle — with such strength, humor, and grace — are qualities from our Mom," he wrote.
Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanley posted this when Connolly was in Youville Hospital: "This whole experience is so strange, but a what relief that you are surrounded by so much love and are comfortable. I think a lot about what this must be like for you. Are you floating peacefully? . . . Are you still yelling 'Time to go!' while sneaking an extra shot of Johnny Walker to a regular? I really hope so." (Shortly after Connolly's death, Hanley posted a long, affectionate reminiscince on her blog: "I feel so heartbroken right now that I can’t move," she wrote.)
A wake will be held today (Thursday, February 19), from 4 to 8 pm at Costello Funeral Home, in Winchester. The funeral is the Friday, February 20, at 10 am at St. Mary's Church in Winchester.