MJ Connery circa 1888
My maternal grandfather, Michael Joseph Connery was born 15 June 1861( or 1862 or 1864 in various records) in Moorestown, Kilfinnane, Co Limerick, Ireland. He was the sixth of eleven children born to Patrick Connery and Mary Leahy. I believe that they were tenant farmers although there is no sure evidence of that. Michael completed the fourth year of high school before immigrating to the United States. [i] Legend tells us that he was sent to town to sell a pig but instead he threw his clothes out the window and ran away with the money. He boarded a ship and sailed to America arriving at Castle Garden in 1880.[ii] Traveling to Chicago, Illinois, he began his new life. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1886 and voted on 16 Oct 1888. [iii]
During his lifetime, MJ, as he was usually called, had several careers from grocer, to saloonkeeper, and owner of several bowling alleys.[iv] He ultimately settled on a career as a Realtor opening his own business about 1912 on the south side of Chicago moving to the west side of the city by 1916.[v] MJ returned to Ireland frequently to visit family which is when he caught the eye of Alice Fleming who was destined to become his wife.
Family stories relate that MJ led the St Patrick’s Day parade down State Street on a white horse and while I did find his name listed in the parade roster, there is no mention of a white horse. As a realtor MJ made wise investments and during the depression he sold many of his properties to clear the mortgages on others. My mother also told me that he walked to work every day with only a nickel in his pocket for a phone call. He also went home for lunch daily to save money but all of his children were very well educated. He was a devoted catholic and generous donor to his church. On the death of his son Leo, he donated a stained glass window to St Mel Church.
His children called him Papa Dear which was later refined to Popsy by his grandchildren. MJ had a large family of which two daughters became religious sisters. I remember him as a tall man with silver white hair who used a walking stick shaped like a tree branch with a silver handle.
MJ died 16 Mar 1953. I was only 10 at the time but I still remember him vividly.