OLEAN — Former Olean Police Capt. James Neil Connelly, who served the city he made home for over 35 years, died Friday at the age of 67.
“We’re all very sad. We all loved him,” said current Olean Police Chief Jeff Rowley. “When I went up through the ranks, I thought I knew what being a police officer, an investigator was, until I started working with Jim.”
Connelly began working for the Olean Police Department in the fall of 1971, the year after he graduated from Olean High School. He retired in 2006 as police captain, and during his career he was also in charge of the Criminal Investigation Unit and the Emergency Response Team.
Rowley considered Connelly a “cop’s cop” and like a “second father” to him who taught him a lot about law enforcement.
“He was a great cop, a great investigator, a great family man,” Rowley said. “Just a super guy who will be very much missed.”
There was a lot to learn, as Connelly also served as an arson investigator; a hostage negotiator; a use-of-force instructor; and a range officer. Even after his retirement, he continued his police work, acting as a criminal investigator for the Franklinville Police Department and an investigator for Dwyer, Black & Lyle from 2006 to 2016.
Connelly also did his part for the community, having spent many years as the chairman of the Dempsey Club Fourth of July fireworks. He belonged to local civic organizations, including the Elks; Eagles; Ancient Order of the Hibernians; Weston Mills Fire Department; and the Allegany Police Department. He also spent many years a volunteer and coach with the Olean Area Youth Hockey Association and Olean Girls Softball.
Mayor Bill Aiello on Friday recalled working alongside Connelly at the Olean Police Department, where Aiello worked for 32 years.
“(Connelly) was an excellent police officer and an asset to the city,” the mayor said. “On behalf of the city, I send condolences out to the family.”
Along with the former chief’s loving wife of 48 years, Dianna J. Jenkins Connelly, he is survived by three children, Cyndi M. (John) Proctor of Olean, Christopher “CJ” Connelly of Allegany and Traci L. (Sean) Stevenson of River Vale, N.J., and eight grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 11, 2019) at the Letro-McIntosh-Spink Funeral Home, 646 E. State St., Olean. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Monday (Aug. 12, 2019) at the St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, 931 N. Union St., Olean. Burial will be at St. Bonaventure Cemetery, in Allegany.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Olean Fire Department, c/o Fourth of July Fireworks, 542 N. Union St., Olean, NY 14760 or to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Division of Pediatric Oncology, One Children’s Hospital Drive, 4401 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224.
Online condolences may be made at LetroMcIntoshSpink FuneralHome.com.
(This story was edited to correct the ranking of Capt. James Neil Connelly in the Olean Police Department.)