Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

Mr. Connolly, An Inspiration To Students, Dies From ALS

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org

A beloved New Hampshire principal who inspired his students to live life to the fullest while facing a terminal illness died Sunday morning. He was 62.

Former Concord High School Principal Gene Connolly was diagnosed in 2014 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, an incurable neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

For 14 years, Connolly was the school’s beloved leader until he could no longer teach. Unable to walk or talk without a computer program, he made his illness a teachable moment until his departure in 2016.

He was also the subject of the powerful documentary Mr. Connolly Has ALS. Most of the film consists of Connolly fielding blunt questions from his students regarding death, disease and hope.

“Life isn’t for the faint of heart. Live it with purpose,” Connolly told his students.

Director Dan Habib was inspired to share Connolly’s story after he learned about the profound effect he had on his teenage son Samuel, who is facing cerebral palsy.

Habib called Mr. Connolly “the most emotional film he’s ever created.”

“I never thought that it was a story that’s inherently sad,” Habib told Life Matters Media this summer. “I saw it as a story that reflected Gene’s spirit and his family’s spirit. It’s not all about sadness. Everyone, including my own family, deals with challenging things. It’s not all sadness everyday. You have to laugh at some of the absurdity that we all go through.”

The 30-minute film was broadcast on PBS in 2017. It will be available to stream for free later this month on YouTube.